Petition helps save 10-hour break
Strong member involvement aids Lifehouse enterprise agreement negotiations.
Apetition organised by nurses at Chris O’Brien Lifehouse showed management that staff were determined to keep their right to a 10-hour break between shifts.
The Sydney cancer centre tried to abolish the 10-hour break during negotiations with the NSWNMA for a new enterprise agreement.
Management backed off after nurses strongly supported the petition organised by the NSWNMA branch at Lifehouse.
“We got a really good response to the petition, including from some of our managers,” said branch president and theatre nurse Jaime Lomax.
“People felt strongly that an 8-hour break being pushed by management was a backward step that would be detrimental to the health and safety of nurses and therefore the safety of patients.
“The enterprise agreement already allows for an 8-hour break if the individual nurse agrees. But we don’t want to be forced to take shorter breaks.”
She said circulating the petition around the hospital helped to get more people interested and involved in EBA negotiations, leading to better than average attendances at union branch meetings.
The NSWNMA started its Lifehouse campaign in October 2016 when it surveyed members to find out what they wanted in the new agreement.
Branch officials joined NSWNMA staff on the negotiating committee and acted as the link between negotiators and nurses on the hospital floor.
“We wanted to get the maximum number of people involved in the process,” Jaime said.
“We kept in touch with our representatives on the wards, communicated with nurses by email and text, and held branch meetings almost every month.”
10 days’ paid family violence leave won
Aside from the 10-hour break, Lifehouse also tried unsuccessfully to abolish or reduce a dozen other entitlements including access to RDOs for new employees, long service leave, allowance for wearing a lead apron and the August bank holiday.
Members accepted the removal of several minor conditions but gained 10 days’ paid family violence leave, the addition of Easter Sunday as a public holiday and the introduction of AiN undergraduate increments.
Jaime said members were generally happy with the outcome and voted unanimously for the new two-year agreement. It includes a 2.5 per cent wage increase from
1 July, 2017 followed by 2.5 per cent from 1 July, 2018.
Lifehouse is a not-for-profit, private hospital that took over most of the functions of the former Sydney Cancer Centre at Royal Prince Alfred Hospital.
During negotiations with the NSWNMA in 2015, Lifehouse became the first private hospital in NSW to agree to a mandatory staffing ratio.
Inpatient wards are staffed according to 5.5 nursing hours per patient day averaged over a four-week period.
The 5.5 NHPPD ratio is equivalent to Peer Group B public hospitals such as Blacktown, Canterbury and Fairfield.
The agreement also commits to staffing levels that “ensure the delivery of high quality patient care and a safe working environment for nurses.”