Big back pay win at Royal North Shore
Fifteen nurses at Sydney’s Royal North Shore Hospital will get back payment of the in charge of shift allowance they were denied for more than four years.
Hospital management finally agreed to the back payment after the NSW Nurses and Midwives Association filed an industrial dispute in the NSW Industrial Relations Commission.
The 15 nurses worked in the post-anaesthesia or recovery unit on the afternoon shift. Back payments for some of them will total several thousand dollars.
A member of the unit, Michelle Keith RN, said nurses were very happy with the result.
“Some people don’t even know it’s coming, so they might get a nice surprise when they see their pay slips,” she said.
“The union staff did amazing work – they were so supportive of us.”
Michelle and Edward Makepeace, the RNSH branch secretary, were on the NSWNMA team that negotiated with management over the back payment.
The public health system award for nurses and midwives says a registered nurse who is designated to be in charge of a ward or unit when the Nursing Unit Manager (NUM) is not rostered for duty, shall be paid an allowance – currently about $30 per shift.
The award also says the allowance must also be paid when the NUM is rostered on duty but the day to day clinical management role for the shift is delegated to a designated registered nurse/midwife.
Staff pressure pays off
The hospital paid an in-charge allowance for the afternoon shift until August 2010 when a second NUM was appointed to the anaesthesia and recovery units.
“We desperately needed a NUM in each department but we were told we would have to sacrifice our in-charge allowance for the afternoon shift in return,” Michelle said.
“However, despite the appointment of a NUM, management continued to designate a RN to be in charge of the afternoon shift.
“At meetings with management over the years we questioned the non-payment and were told it wasn’t up for negotiation.
“It was finally reinstated in February 2015 after a lot of pressure from the staff. But we were told back payment was out of the question.
“When a manager tells you it’s not up for negotiation you tend to accept it. But there was a strong feeling among the staff that it wasn’t right.”
Michelle took the problem to the hospital’s NSWNMA branch, which approached management and got an offer of three years back pay.
Edward said the branch believed members were entitled to full back payment and “tried to negotiate a local solution. But we weren’t able to agree so we got the union head office involved and went into dispute.
“The hospital finally agreed to full back payment when the case went to the Industrial Relations Commission.
“It was a good outcome but it was ridiculous that it had to get to that point.”