NSW Health takes Health Services Union to Industrial Relations Commission over dirty laundry

The Daily Telegraph, 19 June 2023

The wages war between healthcare workers and the Minns government has escalated dramatically after NSW Health hauled the Health Services Union before the industrial relations umpire.

The Daily Telegraph can reveal that the NSW Health took the HSU to the Industrial Relations Commission on Monday morning, after health workers refused to collect dirty laundry in certain hospitals.

The HSU ban on collecting laundry has led to bags of soiled linen piling up in Sydney hospitals.

Its believed NSW Health argued that leaving contaminated bedsheets to fester in areas of Sydney hospitals poses a major health risk to patients.

“As ongoing Health Services Union industrial action continues, NSW Health (on Monday) sought the assistance of the IRC with a concern to minimise disruption to important health services for the community, especially with regard to the potential impact on patient safety,” a NSW Health spokesman said.

The spokesman said NSW Health had activated “contingency arrangements” to manage the collection and cleaning of linen.

“Where appropriate, suitably trained staff are being redeployed to support operations at the Parramatta Linen facility,” he said.

“We are also working with an industry partner to support hospital linen collection and delivery.”

HSU state secretary Gerard Hayes said his members’ refusal to collect dirty linen was creating “delays” but “not putting patients at risk”.

“The linen’s stored in non-clinical areas, and when the ban is lifted they get picked up and taken to the linen factory,” he said.

Liberal Health spokesman Matt Kean said the IRC hearing proves workers have been “lied to” about pay rises.

“Our health system had to deal with a health crisis driven by a global pandemic, now the system is dealing with a crisis of Chris Minns’ own making,” he said.

Health Minister Ryan Park said he respected unions’ responsibility to “robustly advocate for health workers,” but said it was sometimes necessary to seek IRC involvement.

“As Health Minister, I have a responsibility to protect patient safety, and I want to assure the community we are employing every practical measure to ensure that,” he said.