O’Farrell Government’s attack on IRC spells disaster for night shift workers.


A small taste of “night duty” might help convince the NSW parliament that the O’Farrell Government’s attack on the independence of the NSW Industrial Relations Commission (NSW IRC) is not in the public interest!

NSWNA general secretary, Brett Holmes, said nurses will be pleased these politicians got a small taste of working through the early hours of the morning, because one of the first outcomes of these proposed laws, if passed by the parliament, is likely to be the canceling of an arbitration case  to improve the pay of NSW nurses and midwives on night duty.

Nurses need to be fairly compensated for working night shifts.

The NSW Legislative Council sat until 3.30am last week debating the O’Farrell Government’s Industrial Relations Amendment (Public Sector Conditions of Employment) Bill 2011, which is aimed at restricting the independence of the NSW IRC and its role in settling unagreed matters between the State Government and its workforce. The debate resumed in the morning.

Mr Holmes said the nurses’ night duty case, currently before the NSW IRC, highlights just how serious an attack on nurses’ and midwives rights at work this legislation is.

“The night duty case also exposes the O’Farrell Government claim that somehow the previous government and the NSW IRC have been a soft touch for public sector workers and their unions.

“Back in 2008 the NSWNA negotiated a new wages and conditions agreement with the then State Government, but a couple of items remained unsettled. So the agreed matters were voted on and accepted and the unsettled matters, including new night duty penalty rates for nurses and midwives, went to the independent umpire – the NSW IRC – for arbitration. That case started in May 2009. The previous government opposed our claim, but acknowledged our right to go to the IRC. The IRC, in turn, has been very thorough in examining the NSWNA’s solid and extensive evidence.

“The difference is, we had the right to run an IRC case against the employer, in this case the State Government, to make our point. The O’Farrell Government proposals remove that right and even allow the Government to close down this case.”

Night duty penalty rates for NSW public hospital nurses and midwives have not increased since 1975 and the NSWNA does not believe the current rate of 15 per cent fairly and adequately compensates NSW nurses and midwives for the social, domestic and health disadvantages experienced when they work night shift.

“That rate is also way behind the rate now paid to nurses and midwives by other States and Territories. This contributes to the ongoing problem of retaining and recruiting nurses and midwives in the NSW public hospital system.

The current rates across the country are:

  • New South Wales 15%
  • South Australia 20.5%
  • Queensland 20%
  • Victoria 20% – 26%
  • Northern Territory 22.5%
  • ACT 22.5%
  • Tasmania 25%
  • Western Australia 35%

Night shift is a ‘necessary evil’, and increased financial compensation for night duty is a legitimate remedy, as it helps reduce or remove stresses in other aspects of the person’s life, thus potentially reducing the overall impact of night duty.

How do you feel about O’Farrell Government’s plans? Do you think it’s fair NSW Nurses are paid such low night shift rates?

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  1. Let’s hope this will be the spur that finally sees nurses conduct an all out strike for wages and conditions. They have been far too weak in the past and therefore have not achieved the same effects as other workers who will go the whole hog.

  2. Last entry on this subject a year ago. Where are we? Dunno about you but I’m still plodding along on 15% loading. Every day the need to get out of nursing becomes more urgent.


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