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Budget house of cards: industrial action starts to end public hospitals’ over-reliance on overtime and agency nurses

Budget house of cards: industrial action starts to end public hospitals’ over-reliance on overtime and agency nurses

Victorian public sector nurses and midwives will start protected industrial action from 7am Tuesday 7 May in a bid to secure an improved wages and allowances offer from employers and the State Government.

Industrial action includes refusal to work overtime, refusal to be redeployed, wearing red campaign t-shirts, stopping work briefly to talk to patients, visitors and the media about their campaign and to post messages on social media, administrative bans and community and hospital in the home nurses will write on work cars.

The Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation (Victorian Branch) is negotiating a new enterprise agreement, for improved wages, allowances and conditions on behalf of 60,000 nursing and midwifery members, with the Victorian Hospitals’ Industrial Association. Negotiations are overseen by the Department of Health.

Following an ANMF request for a senior government representative to assist the negotiations, the Victorian Government has appointed former Fair Work Deputy President Greg Smith. Full-day intensive discussions took place on Monday 6 May and are scheduled for Tuesday 7, Thursday 9 and Friday 10 May.

ANMF members have rejected the Allan Government’s initial offer of 19 March.

They are seeking a respectful wage increase and a range of increased and new allowances designed to retain and recruit early career and experienced nurses and midwives and rebuild a permanent workforce.

ANMF (Vic Branch) Secretary Lisa Fitzpatrick said ‘Nurses and midwives are taking industrial action as a last resort. We’d like to reassure the community that there are a number of exemptions and while there may be some inconvenience, patient health and welfare will not be at risk.

‘But if we do nothing there will not be enough permanent nurses and midwives to staff our expanding hospitals to care for growing patient numbers.

‘Public hospital employers’ over-reliance on overtime and agency nurses and midwives to fill rosters is a budget house of cards,’ Ms Fitzpatrick said.

‘Hospital spending on overtime and agency doubled from under $100 million in 2018 to more than $211 million in 2022. If the trend continues, they will be spending $3.5 billion shoring up their existing workforce by 2028.

‘Running hospitals with a casual workforce is an incredibly inefficient use of resources and taxpayer funding, especially when Victoria has more than 16,000 extra nurses and midwives in the state than we did five years ago.

‘ANMF and its members have a plan to incentivise and rebuild a permanent workforce and stabilise our health system while employers have not offered any insights or a plan to reverse the casualisation trend,’ Ms Fitzpatrick said.

ANMF members will implement stage 2 protected industrial action from 7am Friday 17 May unless the Allan Government makes an improved offer by Tuesday 14 May to resolve the dispute. Stage two includes the closure of one in four beds, cancellation of one in four elective surgeries and stop work meetings.

Nursing and Midwifery Board of Australia registration figures show net growth of more than 16,000 Victorian nurses and midwives over the last five years. The workforce has increased, yet employers cannot fill rosters with predominantly permanent staff because nurses and midwives are reducing their hours and moving from permanent to casual employment.

ANMF members are seeking a range of claims designed to retain, recruit and rebuild our early career and experienced nurses and midwives.

About 30 per cent of a nurse or midwife’s take-home pay consists of allowances on top of the base rate. ANMF is claiming about 15 new or improved financial incentives to reward working additional permanent hours and unpopular shifts, and to retain a permanent workforce.

ANMF is also seeking the introduction of financial disincentives for unpopular employer rostering practices such as redeployment, excessive reliance on overtime and missed meal breaks. Many of the claims, developed and endorsed by ANMF workplace delegates, would only flow to permanent staff.

The ANMF members’ claim does not specify a percentage wage claim, but it does seek that wages and allowances recognise the government’s wages policy, and at the same time address issues such as gender equity, cost of living, retention, increasing permanent employment, interstate/territory competitiveness and other considerations.


  • ANMF members have taken protected industrial action against Labor and Liberal state governments in 1997, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2004, 2007, 2011–12 and 2016 as part of securing a fair enterprise agreement.
  • The last time public sector nurses and midwives took significant industrial action was the 2011-12 ‘Respect our Work’ EBA campaign.
  • Victorian public sector nurses’ and midwives’ 2024 EBA log of claims