The state election win by the NSW Labor party, led by Chris Minns, has been welcomed by the NSW branch of the ANMF.
The NSW Nurses and Midwives’ Association (NSWNMA) General Secretary, Shaye Candish, said the outcome would deliver renewed optimism amongst nurses and midwives after 12 years with a state government that, at times, seemed openly hostile to nurses, midwives and carers.
‘Thanks to the efforts of our members, our hard-fought campaign for shift-by-shift staffing ratios across the public health system just took a massive leap forward,’ said Ms Candish.
NSWNMA members have engaged in several single-day strikes recently, calling on the NSW government to follow Victoria in implementing ratios. The former Liberal Government, led by Gladys Berejiklian and then Dominic Perrottet, had steadfastly refused to heed these calls, with former NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard arguing that permanent, shift-by-shift ratios would lead to idle nurses – despite evidence to the contrary from Victoria over the past couple of decades.
Chris Minns’ Labor party has pledged to ‘mandate minimum and enforceable safe staffing levels in public hospitals’. The commitment includes shift-by-shift staffing levels across a range of clinical areas including emergency departments and maternity wards. NSWNMA has vowed to continue to campaign to ensure ratios apply to all areas.
Victoria was the second place in the world, after California, to secure ratios, and the first to implement mandated nurse and midwife patient ratios, in August 2000. In 2015, following the election of the Andrews Labor Government, the Safe Patient Care Act was proclaimed law, enshrining ratios in legislation (as opposed to just being written into the EBA).
Scrapping the cap
Another key NSW Labor party pledge is to abolish the public sector wages cap.
The NSW Liberal National Government led by Barry O’Farrell introduced a policy in 2011 that limited public sector wage increases to a maximum of 2.5 per cent per annum, although this was increased to 3 per cent for the 2022-23 financial year and 3.5 per cent for 2023-24, in recognition of the role that public sector workers played during the height of COVID-19 restrictions.
NSWNMA Assistant General Secretary Michael Whaites said his state’s nurses, midwives and carers ‘look forward to the decade-old public sector wage cap being abolished, and the return of a fair collective bargaining process for our members.’
With negotiations for Victorian nurses and midwives next public sector EBA due to begin later in 2023, ANMF (Vic Branch) will be watching developments in NSW closely over the coming months.