Page 3454 - Week 11 - Thursday, 15 November 2007

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was, in fact, the case and, yes, it was—3,200 was the number of blocks planned for release in 2007-08.

MR SESELJA: Minister, did you fail to give a correct answer to the question because you did not understand it, because you did not know the answer, or because you feared the actual answer would expose your government’s failure in land release policy?

MR BARR: As I indicated at the time—and this will be the third time that Mr Seselja has sought to raise this—3,200 blocks will be released in the 2007-08 financial year.

Nurses—pay and conditions

MS MacDONALD: Thank you, Mr Speaker. My question, through you, is to Ms Gallagher, the Deputy Chief Minister, in her capacity as Minister for Health. Minister, could you update the Assembly, please, on the progress of negotiations with our public hospital nurses over pay and conditions?

MS GALLAGHER: I thank Ms MacDonald for the question. Today I was pleased to announce that ACT public sector nurses and midwives have voted overwhelmingly in favour of the new ACT Public Sector Nursing and Midwifery Staff Union collective agreement. The voting was completed yesterday and had a 41 per cent return rate, of which 89 per cent of voters were in support of the new agreement. I would like to acknowledge the work that was done by the ACT branch of the Australian Nursing Federation and ACT Health for the spirit of cooperation in ensuring that we achieved agreement on such an important area of our workforce without any disputation—for the first time, I think, in the history of negotiations with ACT public sector nurses.

We recognise that attracting and retaining high quality nurses and midwives who choose to work in ACT Health is key to the capability of the health system being able to deliver quality health services. The ACT Public Sector Nursing and Midwifery Staff Union collective agreement is designed to provide exceptional working conditions for nursing and midwifery staff, with a particular focus on achieving a work-life balance, which is often very hard for shift workers working those unusual hours. The vote overwhelmingly in support of the new agreement is testament to the fact that the conditions negotiated are moving with the times.

The agreement recognises the nature and demographics of the nursing and midwifery workforce and the need for them to be empowered to continue to deliver high quality health care. Some of the features of the new agreement include salary increases of 4.5 per cent from the first pay period after 23 March 2007 and 3.75 per cent pay rises in March 2008 and March 2009; increases in the annualised salary loading from 25 per cent to 35 per cent for midwives employed in the Canberra midwifery program; for the first time, various flexible shift arrangements which can be negotiated by both parties, with shift duration anywhere from four hours to 12 hours, subject to the mutual agreement of all parties; establishment of a new classification, the assistant in nursing position, which will allow us to diversify the workforce and ensure that our nursing staff are able to deliver nursing services and not be distracted by services that can be performed by somebody else; and, finally, the implementation of the enrolled nurse level 2 classification.

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