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St Vincent's Hospital in Sydney. Picture: NewsWire/Monique Harmer.

St Vincent’s Health urged to ‘return to the negotiating table’

Hundreds of nurses and midwives from two prominent private hospitals in Sydney have voted against a new enterprise agreement.

Over the past six months, the NSW Nurses and Midwives' Association (NSWNMA) pleaded with St Vincent's Health (SVHA) to address the critical staffing ratios and working conditions in the agreement.

The SVHA's proposed 3.75 per cent pay increase earlier this month was met with 'extreme disappointment' by staff from St Vincent's Private Hospital in Darlinghurst and Mater Private Hospital in North Sydney.

"The despair is enormous," Deirdre Duggan, Secretary of the Mater Private Hospital branch, said. 

"The workload is enormous, and people are tired."

Sinead Keane, assistant secretary at SVHA, said they had not received a better offer since December and reiterated their repeated requests since July for meaningful negotiations had fallen 'on deaf ears.'

"There's also been no mention of ratios, and the cost of living keeps rising," Ms Keane said.

"Meanwhile, our nurse colleagues on the floor are crippling under the increasing workloads every day."

The lack of attention to staffing ratios and the rising cost of living have further exacerbated the situation, as nurses on the frontlines struggle with mounting workloads.

The NSWNMA has been undertaking industrial action to fight the enterprise agreement for three consecutive months.

While the SVHA responded by proposing a three-year agreement and a 3.75 per cent pay increase, the NSWNMA said it failed to acknowledge the chronic understaffing.

Nor did it address the need for better nurse-to-patient ratios or improvements to midwifery staffing and the financial pressures, such as rising costs of living staff are impacted by.

Shaye Candish, the General Secretary of NSWNMA, said the SVHA needed to 'do better', especially since the Fair Work Commission's wage increase on award wages.

Earlier this month, the FWC ruled a 5.75 per cent increase to both the National Minimum Wage and all pay rates covered by modern awards, effective July 1.

"The nurses and midwives of St Vincent's Private and Mater hospitals deserve better," Ms Candish said.

"They have the right to feel safe and supported in their workplaces and valued by their employer."

Ms Candish called on the SVHA to return to the negotiating table with tangible offers which 'recognise the professionalism and value of their nursing and midwifery workforce.'

The NSWNMA is awaiting a response from SVHA for the next negotiation meeting. 

Despite attempts to contact SVHA for comment, Nursing Review did not receive a response.

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