A group of nurses wearing masks hold signs on a sidewalk in Launceston.

Nurses strike in Launceston as government offers last-minute proposal

A last-minute proposal from the state government to improve working conditions for Tasmania’s nurses has failed to stop a strike from going ahead at the Launceston General Hospital.

Nurses have been quitting in droves as they grapple with the pressures of the pandemic, rising workloads, long hours and tight resources.

But the Tasmanian government hopes a $2,000 “return to work” bonus will persuade those who recently resigned to give the job a second chance.

It is one of a suite of incentives the government has put on the table to stop nurses and midwives from striking and to prevent Tasmania’s troubled healthcare system from buckling.

Following a short but serious strike at the Royal Hobart Hospital last week, unionized workers at the Launceston General Hospital walked off the job for 15 minutes on Wednesday.

Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation state secretary Emily Shepherd said the government’s latest offer had some “real positives” but came too late to delay the industrial action.

“Of course, we’ll take our members’ feedback on this and go back to the Premier but there certainly isn’t a quick fix to this,” she said.

“We all need to work together and it’s pleasing the government have come with a suggestion around a collaborative way forward.”

‘We have clearly been listening’

The union received the government’s latest offer on Tuesday night, which included the “return-to-work” bonus, a plan to put clinical coaches in all wards with a high proportion (30 per cent) of novice practitioners and improved anti-viral access .

The government is also promising to increase private hospital support for public hospitals, review workplace vacancies and trial a state-wide “transition to practice model”, with an immediate appointment to permanency alongside a six-month probation period.

As with many industrial disputes, pay is a key concern, however, the government has so far only promised to commence negotiations to address the wages of nurses and midwives.

Nurses have been quitting in droves as they grapple with a variety of pressures.(ABC News: Damian McIntyre)

Premier Jeremy Rockliff said he has recognized the demands being placed on health staff.

“We have clearly been listening and today we are acting,” he said.

The government said there were also other measures in place to help health staff, such as a COVID-19 allowance.

A daily allowance of up to $60 a day for a frontline nurse would be paid on top of salary at a hospital that has spent at least 30 consecutive days at COVID escalation level 3 and remained there.

It would work out to an average of an extra $300 a week for full-time staff.

A line of nurses protested in Launceston.
The government’s offer came too late to delay the industrial action, nurses said.(ABC News: Damian McIntyre)

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