Shoalhaven Health Services members walk off job over pay dispute

Milton Uladulla Times, 7 April 2022

Health Services Union members at Shoalhaven District Hospital walked off the job on Thursday over the ongoing fight for pay increases.

The HSU says it has made repeated attempts to open up the state's hospital awards and begin genuine bargaining for productivity-based pay rises but those attempts have fallen on deaf ears.

Under the NSW wages cap, public sector pay increase can not legally exceed 2.5 per cent.

HSU is campaigning for a 5.5 per cent pay rise to account for the impact of the pandemic, and the surging cost of living, along with a broader shift that replaces the state wage cap with genuine bargaining to reflect the enhanced skills and productivity of the health workforce.

Across the state the action involved thousands of health and hospital workers across ambulance, cleaning, allied health, admin, security, catering and ward staff.

Around 35 members attended the Nowra rally in front of Shoalhaven District Hospital, which was one of more than 100 stop working meetings held across the state.

There has been ongoing hospital strike action locally, with Shoalhaven and Milton Ulladulla members of the NSW Nurses and Midwives' Association (NSWNMA) joining statewide strikes over patient to nurse ratios, pay and working conditions.

In fact they have striked twice in the past six weeks.

HSU organiser Renee Sheridan said members passed a resolution, demanding a 5.5 per cent pay rise for all NSW Health workers.

"Members haven't had a decent pay rise in two years," she said.

"There is a lot of anger around that fact - especially at a time when the country has been in the midst of a major crisis with COVID-19.

"Collectively for 2020 and 2021 there has been a combined pay rise of 2.8 per cent over both years.
"Compare that to the cost of living which has gone up 4.5 per cent."

In a read statement she said members had "had enough of being underpaid and undervalued".

"Taking this action isn't easy - we know our work is critical to ensuring first class health services to our community," she said.

"But we can't remain silent and face another year of our pays going backwards."

Members also passed a resolution committing to an ongoing campaign focus on the 2022 state budget and up to the 2023 election.

"Most of us can't keep up with the cost of living," Ms Sheridan said.

"The rising prices of the everyday essentials, like food and petrol."

She said the community often did not realise the hospital was made up of a lot of people - not just doctors and nurses.

"We have members across public health in the community, outreach centres. Sometimes the public don't see the people who work in the dental clinic for community health or patient transport which we all fall under," she said.

HSU NSW Secretary Gerard Hayes said health and hospital workers are at breaking point.
"They were exposed to COVID without a vaccine or appropriate protective equipment for months," he said.

"Then they endured exhaustion and anxiety. They have been rewarded with surging prices and a collapse in real wages.

"We are sick to the back teeth of being called heroes. Being called a hero doesn't put money in the bank when you're skint before pay day.

"We need meaningful action on pay."