Nurses and paramedics will protest in the knife-edge seat of Dunkley today at Frankston Hospital to warn voters that critical health services will struggle to stay open on weekends if penalty rates are cut by a re-elected Turnbull government.
On Wednesday a ReachTEL poll of 1188 Victorian paramedics found that 92 percent would no longer do shift-work if penalty rates are cut.
These results follow an earlier national poll by the Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation of 13,101 nurses and midwives in 2015, in which 87 percent said they would no longer do shift work without penalty rates.
Mr Turnbull and 60 other Liberal MPs have publicly supported cutting penalty rates. The Abbott-Turnbull government tried multiple times to pass the Fair Work Amendment Bill through Parliament, which reintroduces WorkChoices-style individual contracts and allows weekend rates to be cut across the workforce.
Staff shortages likely to arise from cuts to weekend rates would be another nail in the coffin of Australia’s beleaguered public health system.
Mr Turnbull has maintained most of Tony Abbott’s $57 billion cuts to public hospitals and extended Mr Abbott’s freeze on Medicare rebates to 2020, along with plans to privatise Medicare.
An analysis by the Victorian Department of Health and Human Services, obtained by ANMF, revealed that Peninsula Health, the organisation responsible for managing Frankston Hospital is facing cuts of $672 million over ten years.
A ReachTEL poll conducted in May in Dunkley found that 83 percent of undecided voters were less likely to vote for candidates who support cuts to weekend rates.
Quotes attributable to Dave Oliver, ACTU Secretary:
“We know that any reduction in penalty rates is a real cut in wages and will therefore have a huge impact on the ability of people who work unsociable hours to provide for their families.”
“The Coalition sees penalty rates as a luxury and an inconvenience to their friends in business. The union movement knows that not only do they represent the hard earned pay of ordinary workers, but they are a vital to ensuring that services remain available through the weekends.”
“If penalty rates are cut for healthcare workers under the next government it would have a disastrous impact on the level of care that our healthcare system is able to provide.”
“The Turnbull Government needs to stand with working people and protect their pay and conditions.”
Quotes attributable to Steve McGhie, General Secretary of Ambulance Employees Australia, Victoria:
“Paramedics don’t do this job for the money. It’s about serving the community. But they make great sacrifices and shift work has a huge impact on their lives.”
“This poll shows there is no way most paramedics would keep working nights, weekends and public holidays without penalty rates.”
“Shift penalties make up an average of 27 percent of a paramedic’s weekly income. If they were cut branches in Dunkley and all over Victoria would struggle to remain open outside of business hours. Forget about a calling an ambulance, you may as well send for a hearse.”
“Paramedics know that cutting weekend penalty rates for all workers are in Liberal Party’s DNA. The Liberal candidate in Dunkley has written extensively about cutting weekend rates and still stands by his comments.”
Quotes attributable to Annie Butler, Assistant Federal Secretary ANMF:
“Over thirteen thousand nurses and midwives have contacted the ANMF to let us know they were deeply worried about the Coalition Government’s continued progress to cut or remove penalty rates from Australian working rights.”
“The majority of nurses and midwives do not take these shifts because they want to – quality care is required 24/7. Our members go on duty when their hospital needs them. They lose time with their family, miss out on special occasions and can sometimes suffer sleep disruptions due to the nature of shift work. Penalty rates are a small but important compensation for that sacrifice.”
“Most Victorian nurses', midwives' penalty rates will be protected in their enterprise agreements. However there are still ongoing concerns around whether nurses and carers working outside acute services will have their penalty rates protected. These nurses and carers are just as important - they deserve their penalty rates.”
“Mr Turnbull says anyone who accuses him of attacking Australia’s universal healthcare system is a liar. Let’s look at his government’s record instead – $57 billion ripped from Australian hospitals over ten years and $1.8 billion taken from Australian aged care.”
“Mr Turnbull’s government has cut $672 million over ten years from Peninsula Health, the organisation responsible for managing Frankston Hospital. That’s the equivalent of 1.6 million Emergency Department presentations."
“Nurses and midwives have overwhelmingly told us that they do not intend to work shifts without penalty rates. We cannot stand by and let Mr Turnbull create a two-tier employment scheme where some Australian workers are compensated for shift work while others are not.”
“Penalty rates keep Australia’s health services running.”