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Contract dispute looms as WA nurses move to protect conditions, workloads

WA nurses will not demand hefty pay rises from the Government but will take action to protect conditions, the union says, as the deadline to thrash out a new three-year pay deal looms.

The current enterprise bargaining agreement (EBA) expires on June 30 and negotiations will soon commence on the next EBA, which starts on July 1.

After threatening to strike on the eve of the 2013 state election, nurses secured a 14 per cent pay rise.

The State Government partly blames the generous increase for health costs blowing out by 8 per cent this financial year, forcing it to shed the equivalent of 1,163 positions.

If the Government tries to remove conditions to pay for its budget woes they will have some serious trouble with the ANF and our members.
ANF state secretary Mark Olson

Yesterday, Health Minister Kim Hames said WA doctors and nurses were currently being paid 10 to 20 per cent more than their Victorian counterparts and said the difference could not be sustained.

Australian Nursing Federation (ANF) state secretary Mark Olson said he was in the process of surveying his 15,000 members about the next EBA and would not be ready to put a figure on the table for another month.

"I can assure the public that nurses will be reasonable in their demands, but the most important thing for nurses are their conditions," he said.

"They've seen in the past the Government use their budgetary woes as an excuse to start hacking away at their conditions and that's the most important thing - conditions and workloads.

"If the Government tries to remove conditions to pay for its budget woes they will have some serious trouble with the ANF and our members."

Mr Olson rejected the Health Minister's assertion that WA nurses were paid significantly more than their interstate counterparts.

"At certain times of the year nurses are the highest paid. It's a cyclical thing," he said.

"At the moment if they are ahead it's in the order of 1 to 2 per cent. It is not in the order of 14 per cent."

Dr Hames, who is expected to be replaced as Health Minister in three months, said nurses would not be offered anything more than the Government's wages policy allows, which caps increases to the rate of inflation.

"We've got a state policy on wages which is the inflation rate and it's absolutely critical that we stick to that to stop costs blowing out even further," he said.

"The reality is that's the policy and that's what we're prepared to pay."

Perth's CPI was revised down in last month's mid year review, from 2.25 per cent to 1.5 per cent.

Source: abc.net.au

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