Ramsay’s ‘slap in the face’ to NSW nurses
NSWNMA challenges global health giant over safe staffing and pay.
Ramsay Health Care staff in NSW have strongly supported a petition in support of adequate pay increases and safe staffing ratios for nurses and midwives.
“We call on Ramsay to commit to cost-of-living pay increases and safe nurse/midwife-to-patient ratios,” stated the NSWNMA petition, signed by over 3000 nurses and midwives along with additional hundreds from doctors and other employees.
Ramsay is one of the world’s biggest private healthcare companies, with 33 private health facilities in NSW alone.
The company has rejected cost-of-living pay increases and ratios in current bargaining for a new enterprise agreement.
This is despite reporting a net profit of $298.1 million for the year to June 2023, in which earnings before interest and tax increased by 13 per cent to $1 billion.
‘As the leading private hospital operator in NSW, Ramsay should put patients first and lead the way on staffing conditions and pay.’
— Shaye Candish
The NSWNMA is campaigning for a new agreement, including a pay increase, to be backdated to 1 July 2023.
Ramsay initially offered a pay rise of just 8.5 per cent over three years – 3 per cent from 1 July 2023, 3 per cent from 1 July 2024, and 2.5 per cent from 1 July 2025.
It later upped the offer by a meagre 0.25 per cent, with 3.25 per cent to be paid from 1 July 2023.
The NSWNMA bargaining team, which includes 12 workplace leaders, countered with a claim for a 6-per-cent-per-annum increase over three years.
Ramsay defies industry trend
NSWNMA General Secretary Shaye Candish said Ramsay NSW nurses and midwives need an increase that closes the gap with higher paid Ramsay staff in Queensland and keeps up with inflation.
She added that the company’s current approach also “runs counter to the industry-wide trend towards minimum staffing ratios, which are being adopted by major employers in the public, aged care and not-for-profit healthcare sectors”.
“As the leading private hospital operator in NSW, Ramsay should put patients first and lead the way on staffing conditions and pay.
“If it does not do so, it will fail to attract and keep the necessary numbers of skilled nurses and midwives.”
Shaye said Ramsay had taken a constructive step by abandoning some of its proposed cuts to existing conditions – especially on annual leave accrual for shift workers.
“Nurses and midwives expect management to also genuinely negotiate on wages and staffing,” she added.
Member leaders join bargaining table
NSWNMA rank-and-file bargaining representatives from a cross-section of facilities around the state have attended all sessions.
RN Lyn Whitlam, a member of the bargaining team from Sydney’s North Shore Private Hospital, said team members come from “big and small workplaces, city and country areas, midwifery, rehab, and mental health”.
“Each of us has presented the bargaining meetings with accounts of unsustainable workloads leading to staff exhaustion and sometimes misadventures,” she said.
“We have also described the unacceptable working conditions, such as missed meal breaks and unpaid overtime, which we are expected to put up with.
“Ramsay has listened to our arguments for safe minimum staffing but has not moved from its long-standing position that the current system works best for its business.
“This is despite evidence from reputable, peer-reviewed publications that ratios would benefit patient outcomes – and the fact that other operators have implemented or are in the process of implementing ratios.”
Lyn described the company’s pay offer as “a slap in the face” that would leave NSW nurses well behind their Queensland colleagues and NSW public sector nurses.
“The NSW public sector got 4 per cent from 1 July 2023 and will probably get another 4 per cent next year, so 3.25 per cent would put us behind from the word go.
Closing the gap with Queensland
“Our counter-offer of 6 per cent per annum would only almost bridge the gap between NSW and Queensland Ramsay nurses and midwives. Only in limited cases would it bring nurses and midwives above Queensland’s rates.
“Despite this, Ramsay’s CEO has claimed that its wage offer compares well with equivalent positions in the public and private sectors.
“Ramsay is employing more people in senior management on big wages and rewarding shareholders, but not paying anything like a decent wage to the people who allow it to make its KPIs.
“We pointed out to the Ramsay team that if it doesn’t substantially improve our conditions, it won’t be able to recruit enough staff and it definitely will lose a lot of existing staff.
“As a bargaining group we have put across to Ramsay how let down nurses and midwives feel. You almost feel humiliated by the way management has persisted with its inadequate offers and ignored our arguments for staffing ratios.”
Lyn detects a greater willingness among nurses and midwives to take industrial action compared to the bargaining period for the previous enterprise agreement.
“This time we are not struggling to deal with the onset of the pandemic; we have big cost-of-living increases, and we have seen our colleagues in other healthcare organisations receive bigger wage rises and COVID bonus payments, which Ramsay also refused to pay.”
By late October, more than half the nursing workforce at North Shore Private and some doctors had already signed the NSWNMA petition.
Bargaining representatives expect further discussions with Ramsay before Christmas, and will continue to push for a fair pay increase and safe ratios.
‘We have put across to Ramsay how let down nurses feel’
— Lyn Whitlam, RN