COVID-19 lockdown hindered Ramsay negotiations
An NSWNMA member representative on the enterprise agreement (EA) bargaining committee, Deanna Hayes from St George Private Hospital, said COVID-19 made it harder for members to campaign for a better agreement.
“I think the public health regulations and general level of uncertainty during the pandemic made nurses less likely to take action to press their claims. People didn’t know what was happening to their hours, and how COVID-19 would impact
“The COVID-19 lockdowns in NSW interrupted our bargaining process and forced us to meet with management online. COVID-19 caused a hiatus in the middle of negotiations.”
Deanna said it was disappointing the company “cried poor” and claimed it could not afford to pay a substantial wage increase, despite Ramsay’s share price rising through most of the negotiation period.
“Yes, some procedures were postponed, but every Ramsay nurse like me who got redeployed to vaccination hubs or rural areas had their costs covered by NSW Health. And a lot of private hospitals took public patients by agreement with NSW Health.”
According to the Australian Financial Review, Ramsay CEO Craig McNally’s pay tripled to $5.9 million in the 2021 financial year, and the company’s statutory profit is up 58 per cent despite lockdowns.
The Commonwealth government’s $1.3 billion rescue package more than compensated for bans on elective surgery, with Ramsay receiving almost $1 billion in subsidies from governments in Australia and Europe. Even without these subsidies, revenue was up 3.9 per cent.
Around 430 Ramsay nurses and midwives were deployed to support the public health system during the COVID-19 outbreak.
“They claimed Ramsay had their own method for working out safe staffing but wouldn’t say what this was, because it was ‘confidential’,” said Deanna.
“A lot of people were happy to put their names to our petition, which was signed by over 2200 people, because they don’t always get meal breaks due to inadequate staffing.
“They tell stories of being on night duty with just one other staff member and 20 post-op patients.”
She said the company was dismissive of these examples of staffing shortages that the bargaining reps passed on to them from their workplace colleagues.
“We tried to explain it to them numerous times, but they wouldn’t accept that what we were saying was true.”