Illawarra health workers walk out, vote to keep up industrial action

Illawarra Mercury, 7 April 2022

Dozens of health workers braved torrential rain to walk out of Wollongong Hospital for a stop work meeting on Thursday morning, as part of a statewide campaign for a better pay rise.

Health Services Union members, including cleaners, technicians, patient transport workers and allied health staff gathered at the hospital's Loftus Street entrance to vote on taking continued industrial action up until next year's state election.
Local HSU medical imaging delegate Brett Carpenter said the workers wanted a pay rise which would allow health workers wages to keep pace with the cost of living, after two years of low wage rises.

"We got a 0.3 per cent pay rise in the middle of a pandemic - they were giving out $750 to people and giving out money everywhere, but we were getting nothing," he said. "We're also on a 2.5 per cent wage cap, and they've got to remove that cap.

"We represent 48 per cent of the total hospital workforce - and today we're holding 100 stop work meetings regionally across NSW.

"We're after a 5.5 per cent pay rise, and it sounds excessive but we've had two years of underpayment, and we all know inflation is going to be 4.5 per cent and interest rates are going to need to go up."

The stop work meetings were held one week after thousands of NSW nurses went on strike to campaign for a pay rise and for better nurse to patient ratios.

Since then, the nurses union has held talks with the NSW government over the need for staffing improvements and better pay for nurses and midwives.
The NSW Nurses and Midwives Association met with Health Minister Brad Hazzard and Finance Minister Damien Tudehope on Wednesday, saying the strike had helped to highlight their campaign.

"There is an awareness by government that we need more nurses and midwives to deliver safe patient care and how unsustainable the current working conditions are, particularly for the future," NSWNMA General Secretary Brett Holmes said.

"It took a huge amount of courage for our members to participate in last week's 24-hour statewide strike. They were angry their ongoing pleas for help and support had been ignored.

"We look forward to continuing meaningful discussions with the government to address the issues our members have raised repeatedly."
The nurses union has been summonsed to the Supreme Court next week for breaching orders issued by the NSW Industrial Relations Commission in relation to strike actions held on 15 February and 31 March.

The NSWNMA said it maintains the actions were necessary to advocate for safe patient care and the wellbeing of a burnout workforce.