Valley nurses fear loss of entitlements

By SALLY GORDON

NURSES fear the Howard Government's changes to industrial relations laws will severely erode vital working conditions.

NSW Nurses Association branch president for Grafton Base Hospital, Gwen Simpson, yesterday was in Sydney attending the organisation's 61st annual conference.

This year's conference is focusing on the implications for health staff of Federal IR changes.

Ms Simpson said there was widespread concern not only in the Clarence Valley but across NSW, that come the March State elections next year, hard-won working conditions now enjoyed by nurses would be scrapped.

"Our award conditions are set in concrete until March next year, which is when our current contracts run out," Ms Simpson said.

"At the moment we are protected under a State Award under the Labor Government ... this could all change come March next year when renegotiations happen.

"It also could change dramatically if the NSW Government changes from Labor to Liberal.

"(Come March) there is the huge possibility of cuts to shift penalties, weekend penalties and holiday entitlements and sick leave also could be eroded.

"Who knows what will happen with the next round of negotiations ... it's a very scary time we're heading into."

Ms Simpson said the nursing profession already had difficulties attracting people to the industry.

She said if working conditions were further eroded under new IR laws, prospects for staff in the future were grim.

"It's been a hard fight over the years just to get people into nursing," she said.

Fifty-seven staff from the North Coast Area Health Service were expected to attend the three-day conference at the AJC Function Centre at Randwick.

Ms Simpson was joined by a further two staff from the Clarence Valley, with one delegate representing community health and another from mental health.



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