Victorian nurses and midwives give government 14 days to resolve pay dispute before bed closures start

ANMF (Vic Branch) public sector members voting to start protected industrial action from 7 May. Photo: Chris Hopkins

The majority of Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation (Victorian Branch) members rejected the government’s wages policy of 3% a year, plus an annual $1500 payment (pro rata for part-time), instead voting in favour of protected industrial action at an ANMF statewide members’ meeting earlier this week.

Stage 1 action will involve wearing red campaign t-shirts, refusal to work overtime, talking about the campaign to patients, stopping work to post campaign messages on social media, administrative paperwork bans, and hospital in the home and community nurses writing messages on work car windows.

ANMF members have given the state government 14 days to resolve the pay dispute. If it doesn’t come to the table by Friday 17 May, members will start stage 2 industrial action, including the closure of one in four beds, cancellation of one in four elective surgeries, and stop-work meetings.

An ANMF (Vic Branch) public sector member arriving at this week’s statewide members’ meeting. Photo: Melanie Sheridan

“Nurses and midwives take industrial action as a last resort when no one else is listening to them,” ANMF (Vic Branch) Secretary Lisa Fitzpatrick said.

“These bans will be disruptive and maycause inconvenience, but they will not impact on patient health or welfare.”

The ANMF (Vic Branch) is negotiating the 2024-28 public sector nurses and midwives EBA, on behalf of 60,000 members working across public acute and aged care services and stand-alone community health centres. Members are seeking a range of claims, including improved financial incentives to reward working additional permanent hours or unpopular shifts, and the introduction of financial disincentives for unpopular employer rostering practices such as redeployment, excessive reliance on overtime and missed meal breaks.

Ms Fitzpatrick said the Allan Government needed to get serious about retaining, recruiting and rebuilding the state’s permanent nursing and midwifery workforce, including having a senior decision maker at the negotiating table who understands that workforce casualisation is the cause of rostering challenges, and a significant contributor to hospital budget blowouts.

“Hospital spending on unrostered and rostered overtime and agency nurses and midwives has doubled over the last four years alone, hospital could save a bucketload of money if they rebuild their permanent workforce,” Ms Fitzpatrick said.

The ANMF (Vic Branch) pointed to Department of Health data showing health services spent $291 million on overtime and agency and casual nurses and midwives in 2023. Based on the increasing trend since 2018, it projects the government will spend over $3 billion on a casual workforce by 2028.

“Reversing the casualisation of the workforce will take a higher and more nuanced package than the government’s blunt three per cent wages policy,” Ms Fitzpatrick said.

“If we reverse casualisation and rebuild our permanent nursing and midwifery workforce to 2018 levels, we can fix our health system.”

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