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Hospital talks break down, action planned

Thursday, 23rd December, 2010

Hospital talks break down, action planned Hospital talks break down, action planned

By Andrew Robertson

Another breakdown in agreement talks between NSW Health and local unions has sparked further industrial action at the hospital.

Unionists attended a stop work meeting last Friday where they voted to create "security only" positions on each shift at the hospital.

Currently porters and Emergency Department Services Assistant (EDSA) perform dual roles as they also act as the hospital's security staff .

Friday's resolution means that from January 3 porters and EDSAs will no longer perform both of those roles when they are working.

The Barrier Industrial Council (BIC) said the decision would mean the hospital would have to employ an extra five staff per day to comply with the NSW Department of Health's policy directive regarding security. 

Union members voted for the action after they were told protracted negotiations for a new industrial agreement with NSW Health have stalled.

The BIC said the members' unions, the Town Employees' Union and Construction Forestry and Energy Union, felt the action was "well and trulyjustified".

"Agreement negotiations have been ongoing for almost two years but have now, seemingly, reaches an impasse," the BIC said in a statement.

It said nowhere else in NSW did the porter and EDSA classifications undertake a dual role, particularly with regard to security.

"The Health Service has saved hundreds of thousands of dollars each year by having two employees each shift undertake dual roles without paying any extra.

"The unions have been seeking to either have these classifications remunerated fairly or provide a separate security classification at Broken Hill.

"Most importantly it will ensure rightly that the security of the staff, patients and their visitors will be given the utmost priority by the establishment of two security only positions on each shift."

TEU secretary Rosslyn Ferry said yesterday the union and NSW Health had failed to reach agreement over a new rate of pay for porters and EDSAs.

"So we've decided to separate the functions." The claim is among a number the BIC is seeking to have included in the new enterprise agreement.

Ms Ferry said the entire agreement needed reviewing because it did not have many of the classifications and allowances now contained in the State Award.

This meant some staff were being underpaid, or not properly graded, compared to their colleagues in the rest of the State.

A local nurse said she fully supported the action being taken by porters and EDSAs who, she said, were crucial to the running of the hospital.

The woman, who did not want to be named, said EDSAs in particular performed many roles apart from their clerical duties and were not adequately recognised or rewarded.

"A lot of staff in the hospital don't understand the role they do and how much they are depended on." 

A spokesman from the Greater Western Area Health Service said the agreement negotiations were before the Industrial Relations Commission which was "the most appropriate forum in which to address such issues".

The latest action comes 12 months after porters and EDSAs refused to perform security duties after agreement talks broke down, forcing the health service to bring in security staff.

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