A majority of the NSW Nurses and Midwives Association voted on 27 June to accept the government’s offer of a 2.5 percent pay rise with no improvements to conditions or staffing levels. Importantly, 19 branches voted to reject the offer, defying both the government and the union leadership.
The offer was the same one that had been made to nurses for the last seven years, well below the pay increase nurses were demanding. The union had been campaigning for a 4 percent pay rise and the introduction of safe nurse to patient ratios across every hospital in the state.
Unfortunately, the leadership of the union backed down and endorsed the government’s pay offer two days before the vote – claiming that their hands were tied because the government was refusing to negotiate further. This ensured the offer would be accepted, but the fact that 19 branches were willing to stand up for themselves and reject it is a good sign. It indicates a real anger on the part of nurses and midwives about being asked to do more and more for the health care system despite being given less and less in return.
Nurses and midwives know that we and our patients deserve much more than what the government is willing to give. The campaign will continue.