About 10,000 nurses and midwives across Western Australia were threatened with disciplinary action and deregistration by the state’s director general if they went ahead with a 24-hour strike on February 25.
The evening before the planned action, WA premier Colin Barnett intervened to offer the nurses a 14% pay rise over three years.
Australian Nursing Federation (ANF) members accepted the offer after voting at a mass meeting on February 25.
The state Liberal government had previously claimed it could not negotiate with the nurses’ union while acting as a “caretaker” government before the March 9 state election.
ANF state secretary Mark Olson challenged the premier’s claim, accusing the state government of refusing to meet the union for months. Olson promised to make nurses' pay a key battleground for the upcoming state election.
Despite Western Australia being the most expensive state in which to live, wages for nurses have fallen to now stand sixth behind most of Australia’s states and territories. To alleviate this margin, the ANF is demanding a 20% pay rise over the next three years.
The Liberal government has previously set a limit on pay rises to 3% a year, which Olson says will not even keep up with the rate of inflation, and will consequently mean a further cut in nurses’ wages. Other issues related to working conditions and charging nurses for staff parking are other important points of dispute.
Nurses have also won a removal of the car parking fees from all hospitals, except for Royal Perth and the new Fiona Stanley Hospitals, no loss of conditions and the retention of the current workloads clause.
Some areas are still being negotiated. Nurses agreed that negotiations will start after the state election on March 9.