Nurses to go ahead with strike action



PUBLIC hospital and community nurses throughout the Coffs Coast will go ahead with tomorrow's eight-hour strike unless today's last-minute talks break the deadlock.

Talks are continuing between the NSW Nurses Association and the State Government and a compulsory conciliation conference scheduled for 10am yesterday has been adjourned to noon today.

If the strike goes ahead, Coffs Harbour Health Campus nurses will hold a stop-work meeting and morning tea at Urara Park, near the Visitor Information Centre on the Pacific Highway, at 10.30am tomorrow.

The secretary of the Coffs Harbour Health Campus branch of the NSW Nurses Association, Marilyn Body, said nurses from other centres were welcome to attend the meeting.

Nurses at Bellingen, Dorrigo and Coffs Harbour are among the nurses at 160 public hospitals and community health centres who have so far voted in favour of striking for eight hours tomorrow in support of a four per cent a year wage rise.

If it goes ahead, the strike will involve the eight hours of the day shift.

Skeleton staffing will be provided in specialist units to ensure life-saving services are maintained. Night duty staffing levels will be maintained in the wards.

A spokesperson for the North Coast Area Health Service said if today's talks broke down, the service would provide updated advice on hospital staffing arrangements for tomorrow.

In early March the NSWNA rejected a State Government wage offer of four, three per cent wage rises between January, 2005 and December 31, 2008.

At the heart of the dispute is pay parity between nurses and other public servants.

The NSWNA said accepting the wage rise offered by the Government would mean that public hospital nurses in NSW would receive a lower annual pay rise than other public hospital staff such as therapists, cleaners, wards helpers and laboratory scientists, who have received a four per cent per annum pay rise, as have other NSW public servants.

NSWNA general secretary Brett Holmes said any new pay agreement had to maintain nursing as an attractive career option and help solve the nurse shortage and the current offer did not achieve this.

"For example, under the State Government's offer, a registered nurse Year 8 will be, by 2008, $30 per week behind an equivalent physiotherapist and more than $100 a week behind an equivalent scientific officer," Mr Holmes said.



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