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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2001 Week 9 Hansard (22 August) . . Page.. 3155 ..

MR MOORE: No, the nurses at Calvary who voted by 83 per cent to accept the 12 per cent offer when it was an intervention in their EBA will not miss out. The cabinet decision is to provide funding for those nurses as well. Their agreement has a catch-up clause anyway. I think that there is some debate in a legal sense as to whether it is binding. However, the government perceives it so. We will ensure on a wage basis that, should the nurses at Canberra Hospital accept this offer, the nurses at Calvary will have that option as well. In fact, the money will be available for nurses at Calvary should they wish to look at their EBA. There are some issues in terms of negotiation that we need to sort out.

When we put the offer which nominally we called a 12 per cent offer, we provided 12 per cent extra in funding, but there was a slight variation between different areas of nursing because we were trying to get a single wage outcome. This government has had a policy of not having a single negotiation. I think that might be different from Labor's approach. But we did agree in regard to nursing on a single wage outcome for any particular level of nursing. This means that the nurses, if they accept this 17.5 per cent wage offer and its equivalent in terms of Calvary, will be just ahead of New South Wales nurses over each of the outyears. That will make them the highest paid nurses in Australia over each of the outyears.

The offer has been deliberately constructed in that way to bring benefits to the hospital and health care. Why would we do that? We did it because we want to have the very best health care. We know that we have a problem at the moment. There are 39 positions for nurses at the Canberra Hospital that are paid for but unfilled. We have not been able to attract nurses to those positions. That is a source of great frustration for me. Similarly, it is a source of frustration for every health minister round Australia. They expressed the same concern when we met and discussed this issue for a number of hours at our ministerial council meeting in Adelaide.

Also, we are keen to ensure that nurses are able to be employed part time-not to interfere with those on an 8/8/10 roster, those who are employed full time, but, in addition to that, to be able to employ nurses part time to help ease the load. I think that it is important to note that our nurses have worked extraordinarily hard, that they have done double shifts and that they have managed more patients than would be their normal load over the last little while to make sure that they were able to deliver the best possible health care. I take this opportunity to thank them for that contribution. I hope that we will get a reasonable and rapid outcome on this matter so that we can do the best by our nurses.

MRS BURKE: I have a supplementary question. You may have answered it, Minister, but could you explain to me how this offer will help to ease the pressures on the hospital system in the ACT?


: I did touch on it a bit, but I think I could explain some more. It is not just the actual wage outcome. You may recall that when we offered the 12 per cent we said that we would provide particular postgraduate and refresher schemes that were there to attract nurses back to the profession. We have offered to continue those over the full period of the enterprise bargaining agreement, so there is extra money in there to continue them. There is a strategy about making sure that we can bring nurses back into our workforce, pay them at a rate that will improve the attractiveness of the profession

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