Thousands of nurses and midwives are defying a strike ban to walk off the job this morning in New South Wales, with fears of resulting chaos in the state’s health system.
The staggered strikes will include workers from more than 150 public hospitals across the state.
Nurses are calling for better pay and improved staffing conditions, with the NSW Nurses and Midwives Association saying the pandemic had taken the already-stretched sector to breakout point.
However, talks between the union and Health Minister Brad Hazzard failed to reach an agreement yesterday.
The Industrial Relations Commission last night threatened the union with fines if it went ahead with its first strike for more than a decade.
NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard told 2GB’s Ben Fordham it was “disappointing” nurses decided to go ahead with their strike action, in defiance of a decision from the industrial watchdog. But the union says it is determined for thousands of nurses and midwives to gather in Sydney today and march towards State Parliament at 10am to have their voices heard.
Despite concerns about disruptions to hospitals, the union has said life-preserving services will be maintained today.
NSW Nurses and Midwives Association member organiser Mark Murphy said workers were “beyond breaking point”.
“What we’re hoping for today is for the NSW government to listen to our claims for safer patient care through nurse-to-patient and midwife-to-patient ratios, to commit to a pay rise greater than 2.5%, and to abandon any plans they have to change the current workers’ compensation legislation,” he told Today.
Mr Murphy said currently, in order to claim COVID-19 compensation, nurses and midwives did not have to prove they contracted the virus in the workplace.
Changes would make it “impossible” for them to prove they caught COVID-19 at work, he said.
“This pandemic has just pushed them to another level, and previous to the pandemic, there were already issues around unsafe staffing,” Mr Murphy said. “Now, we don’t want just the government to listen; we want them to commit and we want them to implement our ongoing claims for safer staffing through nurse-to-patient and midwife-to-patient ratios.”
NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet previously told Ben Fordham on 2GB the government was open to discussions about increasing the pay of nurses and midwives above the 2.5% offered.
Health Minister Brad Hazzard had been in talks with the union since last week, Mr Perrottet said.
“I want to provide as much support as I can to our health workers right across the state. They’ve done an amazing job in providing love, care, and support to people for two years and they have worked tirelessly,” the Premier said.
Original content from 9 News Australia. Note: Content has been edited for style and length.
Nina Alvarez is a Content Producer for Healthcare Channel. Her interests include writing, particularly about the healthcare sector and the many ways it can improve to further benefit people from all walks of life.