Healthscope gets thumbs down
Nurses and midwives vote for improved staffing by rejecting Healthscope’s enterprise agreement.
Healthscope nurses have voted to reject a company proposal for a new enterprise agreement that offered no solution to widespread understaffing of its hospitals.
Healthscope arranged the secret ballot in December. It was run by an independent organisation called Elections Australia.
Healthscope did not disclose the voting numbers but feedback from NSWNMA members suggests the ’No’ vote advocated by the union achieved a comfortable majority.
Owned by Brookfield, a Canadian company, Healthscope operates 12 hospitals and clinics in NSW.
The current enterprise agreement expired in February 2020 and a pay increase was due in July 2020.
Bargaining between Healthscope and NSWNMA representatives started in September, after a long delay due to COVID-19.
Healthscope initially offered a 1 per cent pay increase from October, and 1 per cent from October 2021, with no other major improvements.
A slightly improved offer that went to the vote included back pay of 1 per cent from July 2020 and 1 per cent from July 2021, plus a 10-hour break after overtime but not between shifts.
Healthscope refuse staffing improvements
NSWNMA Acting General Secretary, Judith Kiejda, said members in all Healthscope facilities were looking for stafﬁng improvements, which the company failed to offer.
She said the NSWNMA decided its position after consulting with members every step of the way.
“Members told us they were sick of not having enough staff rostered on to take meal breaks and needed a 10-hour break between shifts and after overtime,” she said.
“Members said their priorities were staffing improvements, a fair wage increase and protection of existing conditions for Northern Beaches ‘migrating employees’.”
Bargaining reached an impasse when Healthscope refused to consider the NSWNMA’s safe staffing claims.
There were no improvements to staffing, no solution to missed meal and tea breaks, and no 10-hour break between shifts.
Healthscope’s “final” offer also included less leave for part-time shift workers than the legal minimum.
For “migrating employees”, Healthscope’s offer slashed their conditions by removing nursing-hours-per-patient-day ratios and eliminating 10-hour breaks between shifts.
There were cuts to parental and other forms of leave, removal of accrued days off and cuts to redundancy pay.
Staff took dim view of offer
Staff generally took a dim view of Healthscope’s enterprise agreement offer, said Rohini Kiran, a member of the NSWNMA’s Healthscope EA leadership team.
“Some said it was a joke, others called it an insult, so I wasn’t surprised by the ‘No’ vote,” Rohini said.
“With all the work we do, what is a 1 per cent pay rise with no staff-ing improvements?”
She said, “On a positive note, I love working for Healthscope” but added that inadequate staffing is the biggest concern among nurses.
“In my case, I work night shift with a 12-patient load alongside an RN or EN, also with 12 patients.
“Also, I am sometimes ‘hospital in charge’, with overall responsibility for about 100 patients.
“If something happens on another ward, I have to leave my colleague on their own to attend to the problem. That’s a potentially dangerous situation.
“Some wards do not have an AiN on night shift to help with heavy patients.
“When the patient load goes down to 23 on the ward, they start cutting staff. They look at numbers, not the acuity of patients.”
She said excessive workloads often cause staff to miss out on breaks.
Rohini said insufficient breaks between shifts is “a huge issue”.
“Before I started night shift, I worked evenings and sometimes I’d be asked to stay back and work a night shift. By the time 7.30 am comes around, your feet are burning. And then they’d still expect you to come in at 4 pm.
“If you are tired and exhausted and make a mistake, who does it fall on? I wonder if management will take the blame. It’s the nurse who will lose their registration.”