NSW private hospitals start to match public sector pay rates
Healthscope, which operates four private hospitals in NSW, has agreed to a NSW Nurses Association (NSWNA) claim for a 15 percent pay rise for private hospital nurses this year so that their wages keep pace with public-sector nurses wage rises. This pay offer from Healthscope follows last December's interim decision by the NSW Industrial Relations Commission to grant public sector nurses a six percent pay rise from January 2003. This interim rise, when combined with the four per cent January pay rise and five per cent July pay rise negotiated between the NSWNA and State Government, means public sector nurses in NSWNA are receiving a 15 percent (compounded) pay rise this year. NSWNA General Secretary, Brett Holmes, said Healthscope was the first private hospital employer in NSW to agree to wages parity with the public sector after the Commission's interim decision. Mayne Health has now also agreed to give its NSW nurses a 15 percent pay rise this year. Healthscope, which operates the Dubbo Private Hospital, Sydney Clinic at Waverley, Mosman Private Hospital and Sydney South West Private Hospital at Liverpool and employs more than 150 nurses, has agreed to the following pay increases for its nursing staff: * four per cent from March 2003; * six per cent from May 2003; and * five per cent from August 2003. This will provide a standard ward nurse — a Registered Nurse with at least eight years' experience — with a pay rise of around $140.00 per week. Healthscope has also agreed to phase in parity with the public sector across a range of other entitlements such as on-call and in-charge-of-shift allowances. NSWNA members at Healthscope facilities are now considering and voting on the offer. "Private hospitals in NSW are not exempt from the nurse shortage and, like the public sector, they also have an obligation to help restore nursing as an attractive career option through improved wages and conditions", said Mr Holmes. He said if private hospitals let nurses' wages and conditions fall behind the public sector they risk losing large numbers of nurses to the public sector, which is actively recruiting to fill the thousands of nursing vacancies in NSW public hospitals. Mr Holmes said the NSWNA is still negotiating with other private hospital operators for wages parity with the public sector and is hopeful of positive outcomes with many of them in the near future. "We are also stepping up our campaign in the aged care sector — the A Fair Share for Aged Care campaign — for wages parity with the public hospital sector. We cannot afford to have two classes of nurses when it comes to wages. Nursing work is nursing work and nurses are entitled to receive equal pay across all the health care and aged care sectors. "It is not only a question of wage justice. Getting the private hospital and aged care sectors to match the improved pay and conditions in the public sector is the only way we can genuinely overcome the serious nurse shortage we currently face", Mr Holmes said.