Thursday, September 29, 2022

Nurses defy orders to strike after no agreement from salary, staff meeting with gov’t

Thousands of nurses have walked off the job across more than 150 hospitals as they strike over critically low staff to patient ratios, demanding an increase in their salary following a tough two years battling the coronavirus pandemic.

Thousands of nurses and midwives will go on strike in New South Wales despite an eleventh-hour order to ban the action.

Health Minister Brad Hazzard met with representatives of the NSW Nurses and Midwives Association (NSWNMA) on Monday to discuss an agreement in the hopes of averting a state-wide rally.

But hours of discussions led to no outcome as nurses and midwives have already walked off the job from Tuesday morning to strike from six to 24 hours, with others gathering outside Parliament on Macquarie Street in the city for a march.

Staff across 150 public hospitals and health services will protest for a pay rise and safer work conditions due to critical staff shortages.

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Michael Thwaites, from the NSWNMA, said the state government put “nothing on the table” at the meeting.

“Yesterday at our meeting with the minister, what we got was a discussion about having more discussions,” he told Peter Stefanovic on Sky News Australia’s First Edition.

“There was nothing put on the table that would give nurses and midwives of this state hope that their working conditions will be better going into the future.”

The Industrial Relations Commission argued the protests would pose a risk to public health and safety with staff leaving their posts for the sector’s first major strike in a decade.

The union was ordered to stop organizing, call off the strike and encourage members to not take part as it will disrupt services.

But Mr Thwaites said the disruptions to theaters and emergency departments was nothing like what nurses around the state experienced when Omicron was “allowed to rip” by Premier Dominic Perrottet.

“That’s unavoidable when we’re forced to take this sort of action, but it will be nothing like the disruption that was caused when the Premier of NSW ignored health advice and allowed Omicron to rip through our communities,” he said.

“The impact that had on our state hospitals and on the nurses and midwives of NSW was unbelievably bad. It is no wonder that nurses are resolved to take this action.”

Stefanovic questioned whether the “rip through” description was fair due to the high update in vaccines across the state.

Mr Thwaites agreed the vaccination rates were high but Mr Perrottet’s move in easing mask restrictions and QR code check-ins led to a spike in hospital admissions.

“We had wards where there should’ve been multiple midwives and only one. We had wards where there should’ve been eight nurses and there were only two,” he said.

“We had patients waiting overnight in tents outside emergency departments. We had nurses working outside in full PPE, in hot summer days because of the impact on hospitals.”

He stressed lives were not in danger as they’ve ensured there are enough “life-preserving” staff left behind to provide care.

Mr Thwaites said nurses and midwives will be sending a strong message to the government.

“What we will be doing today is making sure the Premier of NSW understands that there has to be given some hope to nurses and midwives of NSW if we want a robust public health system in the state,” he said.

“If they can bring forward actual offers of how to make the working lives of nurses and midwives of this state, then there would be no strikes.”

The NSWNMA voted in the majority of walking off the job on Tuesday and call on Mr Perrottet to “urgently” implement shift by shift nursing and midwifery staffing for safe patient care.

The union are seeking a “fair” pay rise of 2.5 per cent to compensate the wage freeze back in 2020 and recognize the work of its members under tough conditions during the COVID-19 pandemic, especially during the Omicron wave.


Nation World News Desk
Nation World News Desk
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