After a tumultuous year, it’s appropriate the NSW government prioritises our public health system and the nurses and midwives who have kept our community safe.
A strong majority of the 200-plus public health system branches voted in favour of our 2021 award claim which has now been delivered to the Ministry of Health.
Further meetings are scheduled in April and May before the award expires on 30 June.
During a comprehensive consultative process while formulating the claim members told the Association that:
- understaffing is rife across our hospitals
- workloads continue to increase, yet there is less support
- there are not enough nurses or midwives which is creating a dangerous work environment.
The claim includes improvements to create a better, more transparent ratios system and a “respectful” 4.7 per cent increase of pay and wage-related allowances per year, plus superannuation.
In 2020, the government attempted to freeze wages although the NSW Industrial Relations Commission eventually awarded a small 0.3 per cent increase. The government has said it will pursue a 1.5 per cent wage cap until 2024. NSWNMA General Secretary Brett Holmes says this is unacceptable. “The NSW economy has benefited from our members’ efforts throughout the COVID-19 pandemic to keep our communities safe. It is nurses and midwives who have kept the health system going,” he said.
The government can afford to invest in health
The government can afford both a pay rise and further investment in the public health system. In fact, economically it is the right thing to do, Brett says.
“Experts say that pay rises are critical to economic recovery and COVID has shown how important investment in health is to the wellbeing of our economy.”
According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics the Australian economy grew by 3.3 per cent in the September 2020 quarter and by another 3.1 per cent in the December quarter.
The governor of the Reserve Bank of Australia, Philip Lowe said this recovery “reflects the success that Australia has had on the health front”.
Lowe said that “we are now within striking distance of recovering the pre-pandemic level of output”.
The RBA governor has been emphatic about the need for wages to rise to sustain this recovery (see p 22.)
The RBA predicts a strong rebound by the Australian economy in 2021 and 2022. It forecasts economic growth of five per cent in 2021 and 4 per cent in 2022.
The public says nurses and midwives deserve better
Research by Unions NSW found that the NSW public has a strong appetite for investment in frontline workers such as nurses and midwives and the Public Health System.
The survey found that public sentiment towards nurses and midwives is very positive with strong recognition for the considerable sacrifices they have made and their willingness to go beyond their roles.
There was also strong support for further investment in health and nursing with the pandemic still ongoing.
The community was clearly aware that nurses and midwives have been delivering high quality care despite increased work stress, more responsibilities and a highly fluid environment due to COVID restrictions and guidelines.
The survey also found the NSW public strongly support minimum staffing ratios and recognise their importance to the delivery of high quality care and the safety of patients.