Queensland nurses reject 'substandard' private hospital offer

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Queensland nurses reject 'substandard' private hospital offer

Queensland Nurses Union (QNU) members at Uniting HealthCare (UHC) hospitals have overwhelmingly to reject a new enterprise bargaining agreement because it would pay them less than public hospital nurses.

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Queensland Nurses Union (QNU) members at Uniting HealthCare (UHC) hospitals have overwhelmingly to reject a new enterprise bargaining agreement because it would pay them less than public hospital nurses.

After last Friday's count more than 80% of the nurses who voted - 615 out of 762 formal votes - had rejected the UHC pay and conditions offer.

QNU private-sector industrial officer, Gayle McCaul, said huge NO votes were recorded at UHC's flagship hospitals, the Wesley at Auchenflower (85%) and the Sunshine Coast Private Hospital at Buderim (96%).

McCaul said UHC is the second largest provider of acute private healthcare in Queensland, with over 1000 licensed beds at five hospitals and one day surgery facility.

Employers warned

She said the QNU is not surprised by the result, 'as we warned the employer this would happen if they proceeded with the vote'.

'UHC needs to have a good hard look at this result,' she said. 'The QNU did not run a formal NO campaign against the agreement. We provided our members with the necessary information, without any recommendation on how to vote, and they have stated loud and clear that the offer is unacceptable.'

McCaul said that unlike other private hospital operators, UHC is refusing to offer its nurses wage parity with the public sector.

'Over the life of the UHC proposal most general ward nurses - Registered Nurse Level One Year Eight - would be, on average, 2.5%, or about $25 per week, behind their colleagues working in public hospitals,' she said.

Wages falling behind

'At various times over the next few years they could have been up to 5.5% behind. Is it any wonder they rejected the offer?

'In terms of the nurses who manage the wards - the Level 3 nurses - UHC has also refused to negotiate comparable wage packages, which would leave these vital leadership nurses up to $20,000 per year behind their public hospital counterparts by the end of the agreement.'

McCaul said that, unlike the public hospital sector, UHC has also refused to negotiate firm professional development leave or allowance arrangements.

'For example, public hospitals nurses now get three days paid professional development leave a year and a $1500 allowance to cover annual costs,' she said. 'At UHC hospitals the allowance is currently zero and their leave policy is unclear.'

Reopen negotiations

She said that under the proposed UHC agreement qualification allowances, superannuation, maternity leave and long service leave arrangements were all inferior to those available to public sector nurses.

McCaul said that unless UHC substantially improves its offer it will continue to lose nurses to the public sector. QNU officials were aware of many UHC nurses attending public hospital induction and information sessions in recent times,' she said.

The QNU is attempting to reopen negotiations with UHC.

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