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Nurses and Midwives Fight to Save Entitlements

Apr 24, 2024

Nurses and midwifes at Hawkesbury District Hospital have taken to the streets today calling on the state government to take action to ensure their leave entitlements will be transferred.

From July, Hawkesbury District Hospital Health Service, which has been operated by St John of God Health Care for eight years, will be transferred to public hands.

Staff have been told that their accrued annual leave and long service leave will not be transferred due to legal implications between private sector and public sector systems.

The Nurses and Midwives Association said this has left workers distressed and anxious about their future with just a little more than two months until Nepean Blue Mountains Local Health District takes over.

“After years of loyalty and dedicated services to the hospital and community, we feel like this is a real kick in the guts. We are losing the freedom to take our leave on our terms,” NSWNMA Hawkesbury District Health Services Branch secretary Ben Wright said.

“There is a lot of angst among health workers, particularly around the financial and tax implications of this payout. Some staff have hundreds of hours accrued and have plans on how they will use it. This move throws their finances and future goals into disarray,” Wright said.

The implications of the decision could impact other family support payments such as family tax benefits, paid parental leave and childcare rebates. It could also push some workers into higher tax brackets, he said.

Federal Member for Macquarie Susan Templeman said many of the workers has cared for the community for decades and while she supported the transfer of the hospital’s management to the public health system she was disappointed not all entitlements would be transferred. She said she had raised the issues with the State and Federal Minister’s offices and would continue to advocate on workers behalf.

“While I am pleased some entitlements, like personal leave, will be transferred, I understand that annual and long service leave may be paid out – with consequent implications for taxable incomes, means tested benefits, holidays and retirement plans,” Templeman said.

“Like you I am very disappointed that many of those issues remain unresolved at a time when letters of offer will soon be issued,” she said.

Local Member for the Hawkesbury Robyn Preston said she has made a representation to the  government about the plight of the workers however workers will be disadvantaged. “The response gives me no certainty about staff entitlements and I remain very concerned that Hawkesbury Hospital staff will be disadvantaged, as they transfer to NSW Health,” she said.

In a letter to Preston, NSW Parliamentary Secretary for Health Dr Michael Holland said legal technicalities prevent the entitlements from being transferred.

“The Australian Government legislation (Fair Work Act 2009), prevents staff from being able to be transferred directly to the District. This means that once a staff member’s employment at St John of God ends, the Act prescribes obligations on the employer to pay annual and long service leave entitlements,” Dr Michael Holland, Parliamentary Secretary for Health said.

“I understand these changes will have an impact on many employees and St John of God has encouraged staff to seek financial advice to help them make the best decisions for their individual circumstances,” he said.

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