Negotiations between the state government and nurses has reached an impasse, according to union members.
This week Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation Tasmania members working in Launceston General Hospital’s main theatres, resolved to ban overtime as part of an ongoing enterprise agreement campaign.
As industrial action continues to escalate, nurses will refuse to allow any surgical procedures to go ahead, in cases that would see theatre nurses working more than eight hours and attracting overtime payment.
Branch secretary Emily Shepherd said the decision had not been taken lightly, but nurses would ensure emergency surgeries continued.
“This is a drastic way of showing how currently elective surgery lists are being completed daily on the goodwill of nurses, who do hours of overtime to ensure the public receive their booked surgeries,” she said.
“This practice is completely unsustainable and an inappropriate way to address growing elective surgery demand.”
Last week thousands of public sector workers walked off the job as part of a statewide rally against the government’s proposed 2 per cent wage rise.
Ms Shepherd said a 2 per cent wage rise would make Tasmanian nurses the lowest paid in the country by 2019.
However, Health Minister Michael Ferguson the community was entitled to ask why the union was linking “much-needed patients surgeries to the government’s wages policy”.
“Industrial action is always disappointing, especially since we have been doing everything we can to boost health services in the North, including opening and staffing more elective surgery theatres so we can give more people their operations,” he said.
“We know there is ED demand pressure at the LGH and we thank our dedicated and hardworking staff for their incredible work.
“We are implementing immediate solutions to help ease pressure on the hospital, like our ED support package and the new transit lounge, and we are currently building the buildings needed to open even more beds and employ more frontline staff for the longer-term.”
Treasurer Peter Gutwein said the government would continue to negotiate “in good faith with public sector staff within the parameters of our sensible and affordable wages policy”.
“We are spending around $400 million more on health this year than when we came to government and are having no difficulties recruiting as we have employed over 500 additional nurses – this is only possible because we have a fair and affordable wages policy,” he said.
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