Hospital cleaners on strike

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Developing News: Cleaners at Sydney’s Nepean Hospital have walked off the job over what the Health Services Union describes as critical staff shortages.

HSU Lead Organiser Adam Hall says that the Union has identified some 35 unfilled positions, and there may be more.

Mr Hall said that while a planning committee report on the Hospital’s new East Bock recommends the equivalent of 10.5 full time cleaning positions, Local Health District Management has agreed to provide less than half that number.

“We’ve been in negotiations for weeks, but we can’t get resolution on this issue,” he said.

“At a meeting earlier today the Acting Corporate Director that he can give us two cleaners in addition to the three currently employed, but that he wants to leave it at that and see how things go.

“And it’s not just East Block. Right through the Hospital the complete failure to provide adequate staffing levels and decent workloads has made it unbearable for our members.”

Mr Hall said as well as creating a hygiene threat to staff, patients and visitors, the lack of adequate cleaners has a serious impact on patient treatment.

“Some of these positions are discharge cleaners. Their job is to go in and do a thorough cleaning before a vacated bed is allocated to the next patient. If this isn’t getting done you’re having people stuck for longer and longer periods in emergency waiting for a bed. We understand that only 72 hours per week is allocated to this critical task, where in the past it was more like 350,” he said.

“Even from the point of view of the Hospital’s finances, it doesn’t make sense to leave these positions unfilled. We have a financial report that shows it to be a false economy resulting in considerable overtime, additional hours above contracted hours and extra payments for members performing higher grade duties.”

In response to the HSU members’ vote to go on strike until 2.30 pm tomorrow (April 4) the Nepean/Blue Mountains Local Health District has notified the Industrial Relations Commission of the dispute, and the matter has been listed for a compulsory conference at 9.15 tomorrow morning.

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