Friday, October 26, 2007

Nurse dispute resolved as teacher union makes its move

I am puzzled by the resolution of the nurses wage as announced today. Health Minister Daniel Andrews said the deal for the state's 29,000 public-sector nurses was consistent with the Government's 3.25% a year public-sector wages policy.

This is difficult to understand since:
  • Pay rises range between 3.8-6%
  • The state will fund an extra 500 nurses.
The minister said the additional wage rises beyond 3.25% were offset by productivity increases that included treating extra emergency patients, improving hygiene practices and having flu shots to minimise absences.

But while addressing nurses at the rally yesterday, head of the Australian Nursing Federation, Ms Fitzpatrick portrayed the productivity offsets as either motherhood statements or reiterations of current practice.

I don't get it. The government seems to have caved in to demands from the nurses because of staffing bans imposed that put public health at risk.

The outcome of the case is poor for the cause of maintaining a lid on public sector salaries in Victoria. The Victorian Branch of the Education Union will meet today to endorse a strike to be held in Victorian schools during VCE exams. Ms. Blewett, the union's Victorian boss said:

"The (nurses) package of 3.8-6% would not stop the loss of teachers to NSW in particular and other states," she said. "We have to get a package that has the capacity to attract and retain teachers in Victoria and the gap in salary is a very significant one."

The Victorian union is seeking a moderate increase of 30% over 3 years for its 33,000 members. The State Government has caved in to the nurses - I guess they will do the same for the teachers. Like the nurses, the teachers have rejected any move for salary increases based on productivity increase - their high principles mean that they are totally opposed to 'performance pay'. With the suggested increase in salaries a new graduate teacher would start on just under $60,000 per year.

State Government public service costs will gallop away under Labor. Watch it.


Slim said...

Just for the record - what was your last % salary increase and was it performance dependent? Just to be sure we aren't talking geese and ganders.

FYI - VCE students are no longer attending schools as of yesterday. Any teacher stop-work DAY will have no impact on VCE classes or VCE student outcomes.

hc said...


Who said I was not in favour of performance loadings for academics in universities. Again, the main source of opposition is the NTEU.

The claim that they would seek to disrupt the VCE exams was the union's not mine.

Slim said...

I'm cynical when people earning $100K+ argue against a $10/week increase for low paid workers.

The presumption that the silver bullet solution to education is performance pay for teachers I suspect is motivated by a desire to get more for less, especially when spruiked by people on high incomes not subject to performance pay criteria. The evidence for its efficacy is equivocal at best.

You may be right that public sector wages will blow out under a Labor government, but not for the reasons you are suggesting. Public sector skilled wages will blow out just like private sector skilled wages and for the same reason. Chronic neglect of education and training over the last decade has led to acute skills shortages. Underpaying Victorian teachers $10-20K per annum will see more and more poached to NSW, QLD and WA. That's the market for you.

Performance pay for teachers will not fix this problem. Sustained and systematic investment in public education and training will.

I'm sure you are aware of the transformation of the Irish Republic over the last generation and the crucial role government interventionist policies played. We can do better, but it won't happen on Howard/Costello's watch.

hc said...

In the case of teachers its not a $10 a week increase. They want 30% and starting salaries for teachers would be just under $60,000. That is way above starting salaries in other occupations.

What does the salary of the observer have to do with making judgement about the justice of pay claim? How much do IR lawyers and pollies earn?

Skill shortages can reasonably be related to the state of the economy - there is 4.2% unemployment.

Why is performance pay used throughout the private sector to encourage better work effort but fails to be useful in public sector jobs like teaching. What's wrong with paying a teacher who outperforms a huge salary and giving the loafer a low base salary?

Slim you are not allowing logic to upset your strongly held political priors. Its a pity.

Anonymous said...

Slim thinks everyone should receive 30% increases and be on 100G a year. That would certainly reduce inequality.

Francis Xavier Holden said...

harry - until we see the details of the nurses EBA we can't say what really was agreed to. The details will take about a week to be clear.

At the moment it's all spin on both sides. Interestingly from all reports it was the nursing membership pushing for a resolution more than the government this time. So I'm inclined to believe the gov spin rather than ANF at this stage.

Nonsense about the gov employing 500 more nurses needs explanation - the gov itself employs bugger all nurses and health services have global budgets and essentially employ sets of skills not professions. On ratios it is the rigidity ratios of any agreement that matters - wait for the details.

What really is clear is that the Fed Wokchoices aws are a bloody disaster for disputes such as this. Nurses were docked a full days pay if they said they supported the bans even if they had worked a full shift. Something the ANF had not really made clear to people they encouraged. Arbitration can't be utilised until 21 days of dispute.

All this was predictable as soon as we adopted the USA style of regulated disputes - no industral action for 4 years until the renegotiation phase then high profiel posturing by union for a week or so, faux outrage by media, then resolution for another 4 years. yawn.

Steve Edney said...

On a more general point.

Its not clear to me why pay rises should be performance based, particularly in things like nursing where there is a shortage of staff.

If it becomes better for them to go work in the private sector or drive cabs or whatever then surely you just have to pay them more to keep them working the same jobs.

conrad said...


you are complaining about two professions where there are obvious shortages caused by Australians being cheapskates, and likely to be more shortages because people won't want to go into professions where the money/effort trade-off is evidentally poor because of this. It isn't like, say, doctors, where they can simply strangle the market via not having enough training places.

Like every other profession in shortage, I don't see any reason why teachers shouldn't try and get as much as they can -- I know I would if I was a teacher. The fact that people don't like it is simply because they think these services should be cheap or free.
In this respect, I don't see why or how teachers differ from, say, lawyers. In the latter case, no-one would even think to complain about them trying to get more pay.

It would be nice if you say why and how these guys differ compared to other groups.

Spiros said...

Obviously the teachers aren't going to get 30%, but there is a real problem with teacher salaries.

Why should a bright young graduate become a teacher, which will pay them $62K in 15 years, when they can get that much and more (often much more) after one year in the public service, let alone the private sector?

And Harry, in the previous thread you said the nurses' wage incrase wasn't market based because they are public employees. This is wrong, old son. Nurses can and do sell their wares to private hospitals, nursing homes and public hospitals in other states, not to mention in other industries where their generic organisational and people skills are in great demand.

Slim said...

Putting petty partisan parrying aside, the logic of the situation is pretty straight forward. All areas of the economy are suffering from capacity constraints, especially skills shortages in industry, health and education. Solid investment is needed to expand capacity. Squeezing performance-based blood from a stone is not going to deliver the goods. Paying competitive salaries to teachers and nurses and investing in more is the only logical way forward.

And no, anonymous I am not advocating that everyone earns $100K+. Unless it is your particular area of professional responsibility, arguing that people being paid less than one's self should exercise wage restraint smacks of geese and ganders. Lead by example - decline your next salary increase (quite probably provided by the negotiating efforts of your professional organisation or union) on the grounds that any improvement should only be on the basis of improvements in performance. Like all those CEOs. LOL.

derrida derider said...

Of course the Health minister is lying - there's no way its consistent with their global salary cap. They've capitulated.

But their stupidity was not in capitulating but in getting into an unwinnable fight. Even if they had won the battle - and that was always unlikely - they'd lose the war to get and keep nurses.

As I noted elsewhere, expect Vic nursing shortages to now get much more severe as a result of the widespread advertisement of the sort of management nurses have to deal with.