Hundreds of Health Services Union (HSU) members at the Royal Prince Alfred Hospital (RPA) walked off the job on June 22 in support of their claim for a fair pay rise, 100% salary packaging, reform of the 20-year-old award and a royal commission into federal health funding.
Allied health staff joined HSU members taking strike action at Westmead, Royal North Shore Hospital, Prince of Wales and in Tamworth and Lismore.
The action was part of an ongoing challenge by 25,000 HSU members, across NSW Health and Ambulance, for Labor to fulfill its election promise to scrap the Coalition’s pay cap.
Salary packaging allows workers to increase their take-home pay by using part of their pre-tax income for approved personal expenses, thus reducing their taxable income. The HSU is calling for 100% of the reduction in tax to be available to each employee.
The HSU is a specialist union and covers workers in public hospitals, ambulance, aged care, allied health, private hospitals, imaging, pathology and disability care. It has 47,000 members in NSW, ACT and Queensland.
The HSU said on June 19 the health system is in “crisis”, with 12,000 vacancies across NSW. It is concerned that talented allied health staff are leaving the sector because awards are “decades out of date”.
HSU secretary Gerard Hayes told the rally at RPA: “The NSW government tells us to accept a 4% pay rise, when inflation is now 6.8%. We are not going to put up with this.”
Rally chair Gabe Kavanagh said: “The government talks about RPA as a flagship hospital. Well, we call on the Minns government to show that they mean it by giving us fair pay and conditions.”
RPA, Concord Hospital, Sydney Dental and Canterbury were to hold stop-work rallies. But Hayes told members on June 24 that he had finally met the Treasurer, some progress had been made, and he said the actions were on hold.