Nurses pull out of paid hospital parking rally after Govt ‘commitment’

The State Government has been accused of playing favourites with healthcare workers over a paid car parking row at hospitals, with nurses pulling out of a protest rally tomorrow alongside low-paid cleaners and orderlies after receiving a “commitment” to resolve the issue in a new pay deal.

Aug 18, 2022, updated Aug 18, 2022
Nurses and their union leader Elizabeth Dabars at a rally in 2019. Photo: David Mariuz/AAP Image

Nurses and their union leader Elizabeth Dabars at a rally in 2019. Photo: David Mariuz/AAP Image

Health staff have been embroiled in a dispute with the State Government over a plan to reinstate car parking fees at hospitals which were halted during the pandemic.

But Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation state secretary Elizabeth Dabars today told InDaily the government had now pledged to “resolve the car parking issue” for nurses during current enterprise bargaining negotiations and “to expedite resolution in the coming weeks”.

“The negotiations now do include car parking,” she said.

“Certainly there was a commitment to seek to resolve the car parking issue.

“As a result of that – due to those commitments – we have resolved not to actively participate in the rallying around car parking as a sign of good faith.”

But other, often lower-paid, healthcare workers including cleaners, orderlies, sterilisation technicians and catering attendants have received no such commitment and are pressing ahead with their action.

About 1000 healthcare staff from Adelaide’s seven major public hospitals are due to strike tomorrow morning over the escalating issue.

The United Workers Union expects 100-200 workers to also take part in a rally outside SA Health’s city headquarters.

“These workers are some of the state’s lowest paid health workers… who will be slugged up to $1300 per year just to be able to get to work,” the union’s public sector coordinator Paul Blackmore said.

“Workers have raised their concerns about the fees but they continue to be dismissed, with SA Health pushing ahead with plans to impose fees that will be devastating to workers.”

Blackmore said for a hospital cleaner earning $27 an hour, imposing an annual parking fee of $1300 was the equivalent of a pay cut of more than two per cent.

“That leaves them going even further backward when it’s the lowest-paid that also really feel the effects of inflation now standing at more than six per cent annually,” he said.

“We are asking the SA Government – show some understanding of cost-of-living pressures facing these workers and end the imposition of these fees.

“Workers are reporting that with sky-high petrol prices, grocery bills and energy costs, there is no room for them to move on this, and that’s why they are forced to take strike action.”

The former government halted paid car parking at hospitals during the pandemic and the new State Government has said it will re-introduce fees at hospitals and put the money back into the struggling health system.

It comes at the same time as the government has introduced legislation to block paid parking at major shopping centres in SA.

The ANMF’s decision to pull out of the rally comes a day after it posted to social media urging members to “take action over the reintroduction of hospital car park fees” by participating in the rally.

Take action over the re-introduction of hospital car park fees. A rally will be held between 7am – 9am outside the SA Health building at 11 Hindmarsh Square on Friday, August 19. Show the Government we deserve better and attend Friday’s rally. #StrongerTogether

— Nurses/Midwives SA (@ANMFSA) August 16, 2022

The union posted an update to twitter last night.

ANMF (SA Branch) will not be actively participating in this Friday’s rally due to renewed commitments from the Premier addressing hospital car parking in the EA. He has also committed to an accelerated resolution for EA negotiations.

— Nurses/Midwives SA (@ANMFSA) August 17, 2022

“ANMF (SA Branch) will not be actively participating in this Friday’s rally due to renewed commitments from the Premier addressing hospital car parking in the EA,” the union tweeted.

“He has also committed to an accelerated resolution for EA negotiations.”

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This morning the union also sent a detailed memo to members advising of the changed position.

“Following a renewed commitment directly from the Premier, ANMF (SA Branch) can now confirm that it is agreed that provisions for car parking will be finalised through the current Public Sector EA negotiations,” the memo says.

“It follows a meeting with ANMF (SA Branch) Executive and the Minister for Health and Wellbeing where the issue was escalated again.

“SA Government representatives and ANMF (SA Branch) have been in active negotiations regarding the Public Sector Enterprise Agreement since April, but negotiations had stalled in the recent weeks.”

Dabars told members in the memo: “We had made it clear to employer representatives that if these delays continued then we would be approaching our members and inviting them to consider action.”

“We are pleased that the Premier has instructed SA Government negotiators to expedite a resolution in the coming weeks,” she said.

“Due to commitments received… ANMF (SA Branch) will not be actively participating in Friday’s rally around car parking as a sign of good faith.

“However, we wish other unions and their members well in their advocacy.

“The health system is still at breaking point and the nursing and midwifery workforce continues to work tirelessly.”

Opposition health spokesperson Ashton Hurn said “(Premier) Peter Malinauskas can fix this with the stroke of a pen, so once again we are urging him to reverse this decision instead of making a captain’s call about which workers he’d like to help”.

“Playing favourites with unions in relation to free car parking and public transport sends a terrible message to frontline workers right across the system, and it’s leaving people in the dark,” she said.

Deputy Premier Susan Close today told reporters free hospital car parking was brought in as an “extraordinary provision” during the pandemic “and one that was always going to come to an end – it has duly come to an end”.

She said unions could now negotiate the matter through their enterprise agreement.

“Our view as a government is that free car parking associated with being a health worker is something that now properly belongs in an enterprise agreement discussion,” she said.

“Those discussion are ongoing with various unions at different times.”

But Blackmore said the United Workers Union had already settled its three-year enterprise agreement in February.

“We think it’s entirely possible to be able to discuss and negotiate car parking outside of enterprise bargaining discussions,” he said.

“Our members simply can’t wait that long for some reprieve from the car parking costs that they want to reintroduce.

“We are hopeful that the government will see that this is a significant issue for our members who are the lowest paid workers in the healthcare system.

“Tomorrow’s action will demonstrate to them how important this is to people.”

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