Work bans if nurses reject deal
May 9, 2004
NURSES will consider imposing work bans including closing public hospital beds at a meeting tomorrow which is expected to reject a 15 per cent pay offer.
Anger over staffing levels and recruitment is expected to lead to industrial action following the breakdown of talks with the State Government.
The Australian Nursing Federation is seeking a 22 per cent pay rise over three years, including a 10 per cent adjustment to give them parity with nurses interstate.
They also are seeking enforceable clauses within a new agreement covering safe staffing levels as well as recruitment and retention goals.
The Government has offered 15 per cent and refused to include enforceable staffing and recruitment levels in the proposed agreement.
The offer will be put to nurses at a teleconference of country nurses at 3pm tomorrow, followed by a mass meeting of city nurses at 5pm.
"The decision on industrial action will be up to members and will depend on how insulted or angry they feel," ANF state secretary Lee Thomas said.
"If they move to industrial action they might say they want to go out from Friday.
"Nurses I have spoken to are very clear there are some things they won't back down on and they will not accept anything other than enforceable safe staffing levels and an enforceable plan for recruitment and retention.
"This is a safety issue – they know we are getting older and there just won't be enough nurses around to provide quality of care."
ANF figures show the average age of nurses in 1986 was 25 compared to 46 today, and about 400 to 500 nurses leave SA or nursing each year.
Nurses took industrial action two years ago, including closing 25 per cent of public hospital beds, to win an enforceable minimum safe staffing level but that agreement expired in March.
"Members don't want to go back to a situation where they have escalating workloads, but as we come into winter that is a reality and they will have nothing to enforce their protection," Ms Thomas said.
The ANF predicts the shortage estimated at 700 nurses two years ago will balloon to around 1500 within two years – the equivalent of the Royal Adelaide Hospital's entire nursing staff.
The Government has recruited more than 150 nurses from overseas and funded 150 extra university places to ease the nurse shortage.
However, the Government's own nursing strategy notes a minimum of 1350 graduates need to be produced each year to address the shortage, compared to around 450 per year at present.
Industrial Relations Minister Michael Wright issued a statement through a spokesman saying: "The Government will continue to work with the ANF to get the best outcome for nurses, patients and all South Australians."