Why I’m taking industrial action – by a Sydney nurse


A guest post by Edward Makepeace RN.

Edward has been a member of the NSW Nurses and Midwives Association (NSWNMA) since 2010 and became very active in the Safe Patient Care campaign that year. Along with many others, his efforts resulted in the Association achieving ratios for some metropolitan hospitals in 2011.

The NSWNMA is taking strike action on Wednesday July 24 to improve and extend ratios to rural hospitals and specialties like EDs, paediatrics, intensive care units and community health.

I am taking industrial action on Wednesday because I believe that patients deserve the same level of nursing care regardless of their postcode. Currently there is a three-tier system that disadvantages patients living near smaller hospitals. I have seen the dramatic benefits that an increase in nurses brings to patients and to the running of a ward, which was achieved through the last campaign – but only for some wards in tertiary hospitals.

Edward (third from left) and other nurses during the Safe Patient Care campaign 2010.

I am campaigning for every nurse to be able to work in an area where they are adequately staffed, so that they can provide the high level of care all nurses strive to provide, though often are unable to.

I am also taking action because Emergency Departments need a safe nurse to patient ratio. The ED is often the busiest place in the hospital, with patients often critically unwell and requiring many interventions and close monitoring. However there is no mandated ratio of nurses to patients in EDs and the government has refused to negotiate with the NSWNMA to establish a ratio that ensures patient safety and timely treatment.

Nurses don’t take strike action lightly. We find it challenging to take ourselves away from the bedside caring for our patients. I and thousands of other nurses and midwives have made this decision to ensure that there are enough nurses to safely care for every patient in every hospital across the state no matter where you live.

I am also striking to send a message to this government that their behaviour and attitude towards nursing and midwifery staff is unacceptable. The NSWNMA claim was for a 2.5% pay rise in line with the public sector wages policy. The offer we received was cut to 2.25%, with 0.25% being allocated to an increase in superannuation, shifting the cost from the employer to the employee.

The Industrial Relations Commission ruled that this was not legal; however, the next day the legislation was changed so that this action was made legal. This highlights the absolute disregard for due process and the legal framework if it does not suit the will of this state government.

Nurses and midwives will not stand by and be treated like this.

Strike action is a last resort. The NSWNMA has been trying to negotiate in good faith for many months yet there has been no genuine negotiation and we have yet to receive an offer that adequately addresses our concerns about ensuring safe patient care.

This government has shown an absolute disregard for the professional opinion of the largest body of health employees about what level of staffing is required to provide safe patient care.

We need our voice and our patients’ voices to be heard.

Previously on Nurse Uncut about this campaign for ratios:

Nurses and midwives will strike tomorrow!

Background to the strike

Ten good reasons nurses and midwives are striking next week

Seeing Red for ratios

Vigil by candlelight for ratios

Too much work, not enough time

Taking our campaign to the MPs

Decking your desks for ratios

Kempsey asks: is the Premier listening?

The campaign for improved ratios begins

Voting for ratios: a video

Ratios not only save lives, but money too


  1. Great post Edward. It is great to see such support from a metro hospital that has already benefited greatly from the ratios achieved in 2010.RNSH still has a lot to be gained by many specialties, including the ED, community nursing, paediatrics and the critical care areas such as ICU. It is critical that mandated ratios are achieved in all of these areas.It is also critical that Peer Group Hospitals other than the ‘A’ group also get a better deal. We need fair and safe ratios across NSW and we all need to stand together to achieve this. I will proudly lose a day’s pay tomorrow to take necessary strike action to get a better deal for all NSW patients. Keep up the good fight!

  2. Shouldn’t we concern ourself with something that has a big impact on a nursing career – bullying, Re-registration, loss of money, stress, depression, defamation, unwanted career change etc.


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