MILITANT Emerald Hospital nurses have laid down the gauntlet to embattled Health Minister Paul Lucas over the Queensland Health pay fiasco – get it right or we’ll strike!
Yesterday, five black-shirted hospital employees stood united behind a Queensland Nurses Union banner, to participate in a statewide Our Pay Protest Day.
Between them, they’re owed $5000 in bungled backpay.
Why so few? Because inside, everyone else was busy, including one nurse who received a sternly-worded letter informing her she was overpaid $200 in the last pay cycle and had to return the money immediately. She’s still waiting for almost $3000 in wages.
“(The State Government) needs a heart and lung transplant – and maybe a brain,” said one of the small protest band.
General ward nurse Mabel Angus said QH representatives were at the hospital on Sunday with cash handouts of $500 available to a select few.
“At the towns closer to Brisbane they actually had nurse managers going around offering $200 cash. I’ve spoken to an emergency nurse at another hospital so I know it’s true,” said one of her colleagues who took a
Mabel, a mother of three, took the full amount on offer, but it’s still well short of what she’s due.
“I’ve had enough,” she said.
“I was asked if I was owed anything else, but I was over going back to look at my pay slips.
“At the end of the day, however many times I’ve faxed the hours that I’ve worked, it’s for them to sort it out. I’m a nurse and that’s not my job…
“Someone’s got to have a heart. I don’t think whoever is responsible has got the heart to come out and say, look it’s my fault.”
Emerald’s 62-strong nursing staff flagged their intentions to take industrial action from Monday, May 10, if the fourth Queensland Health pay cycle due next Wednesday contains any more individual errors.
At last Friday’s QNU branch meeting, strike talk was mooted as members tearfully revealed the extent of hardship caused by the ongoing scandal; being forced to beg for charity, and relying on family and friends to pay rents and mortgages and university fees.
QNU state secretary Gay Hawksworth said Emerald members had indicated they would impose overtime bans and refuse to carry out certain non-clinical duties.
Health Minister and Acting Premier Paul Lucas yesterday admitted he didn’t expect all problems with the $40 million payroll system to be fixed next week, and the government may consider legal action to cover the cost of fixing it.
“It will take time to deal with the issues,” he said.
“The government is listening to you – we are working to sort it out, we do apologise for the inconvenience you have faced, it is your money, we want to sort it out.”
On Wednesday, Mr Lucas acknowledged problems existed in Emerald.
“I’m concerned that even despite our extensive communication to our staff through unions and workplace communication and posters, we still have a small number of isolated cases where staff in hardship don’t contact us for immediate assistance,” he said.
“As soon as the QNU told my office about some Emerald nurses being underpaid, emergency assistance was immediately arranged.
“… Staff only need to contact us and we will assist them immediately.
“There is no need for anyone affected to go to charities for assistance as we can provide them with their pay as soon as we are made aware.
“We are doing everything we can to fix the problem and providing urgent assistance to anyone affected.
“We want this fixed fast so people’s lives can return to normal.”
The Australian Services Union said there were still thousands of pay adjustments that needed to be made and it could take months to clear the backlog.
A spokesperson for Australian Medical Association Queensland president Dr Mason Stevenson said confidentiality precluded them from identifying the number of doctors affected in the Central Highlands.
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