Despite fear of professional repercussions, the overrun, understaffed and overtaxed NSW nurses and midwives walked off the job on Tuesday in mass solidarity, seeking to address the long-standing inequities in hospital workload compounded by the pandemic.
Frontline workers of various capacities flooded the Sydney CBD to Parliament House, demanding improved working conditions (safe patient-to-carer ratio) and permanent payment increases, as well as to expose the frustration and exhaustion of a severely strained health system.
The industrial strike went ahead undeterred by a ruling issued on Monday by the Industrial Relations Commission (IRC). The IRC, at the petition of the NSW government, urged the dismissal of all demonstrating action.
In a statement published on Tuesday, NSW Health management suggested the strike would cause “disruptions and delays to health services throughout the state” in a plea for all to comply with the order handed down by the IRC. The post was shared over 1.2K times with, of course, comments disabled.
On the same day, NSW’s health minister Brad Hazzard labelled the strike “unfortunate” and “disappointing” on 2GB. He claimed that the demand for a balanced nurse-ratio “would cost a billion dollars.”
When pressed to confirm whether the current wage increase offer of 2.5% was now under review, Hazzard responded “We are doing everything we can on that front.”
“I would prefer not to comment other to say that we are trying to find a way forward for further recognition of the amazing work that nurses and midwives do.”
Hazzard claims to have been the one during a meeting with the NSW Nurses and Midwives’ Association to raise the conversation of pay issue, as the committee was rather focused on “nurse-ratio.” Some staff are currently handling double the usual number of patients.
Regardless of such disapproval from government department figures, it should be pointed out that the industrial action is taking place now that the height of the crisis has passed. It is also in line with actions from nurses in the UK and other Western countries for greater recognition of their work during the pandemic and well-earned improvements to working conditions and pay.
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Images courtesy of @theeastlondonphotograper via Unsplash.