Hospital staff walk out on job over 'wage theft'
UPDATE, 5.20pm: NORTHERN NSW Local Health District is open to working to remedy concerns raised by workers over uniform policies.
Health district boss Wayne Jones said discussions with the Health Services Union had been over the dress and appearance policy was endorsed by both parties in January.
"This policy includes the categories of staff required to wear uniforms from the date of endorsement," Mr Jones said.
"NNSWLHD began paying the associated laundry allowance, including back pay, to eligible staff groups following endorsement of the policy.
"The HSU recently advised that they now do not endorse the policy.
"NNSWLHD has temporarily halted this process, so that any new issues can be resolved before we proceed further."
Mr Jones said he "welcomed the opportunity to discuss any new issues" with HSU.
"To date, the HSU has not taken up these offers, nor provided more details of their current concerns," he said.
"We look forward to a quick resolution to this issue."
UPDATE, 4.40pm: LISMORE Base Hospital workers walked out on their shift today in protest over unpaid laundry allowances.
Between 10 and 15 workers joined the industrial action protest outside of the hospital, organised by the Health Services Union.
HSU organiser Peter Kelly said the protest was in response to what he saw as "blackmail" against union members, which saw the Northern NSW Health District refuse to pay 265 staff money owing to them for laundry allowances.
"We have raised issue and concern with their dress and uniform policy they want to introduce," he said.
"There are a number of points where staff should or shouldn't wear uniform because of clinical and health and safety reasons.
"For some patients, it's a bit of an obstacle when you wear a uniform to build trust.
"This is mainly for our members in community health. It's best for them and it's often best for the patient for them not to be identified as health worker.
"Just say a health worker goes into deal with a child at a school, the last thing the child needs is for other children to know they're dealing with a health worker."
Mr Kelly said the NNSWHD was not paying the remaining staff their laundry allowance, which in some circumstances backdated to five years and 11 months, because of the union's objection to corporate uniforms.
"The local health district in its response with a knee-jerk response to not pay people," he said.
"I've seen some pretty low acts in my time but that would have to be the lowest act I've seen."
Original story: HOSPITAL workers across the Northern NSW Local Health District (NNSWLHD) will walk off the job for 30 minutes today over unpaid laundry allowances.
Workers, including wardspeople, security guards, allied health professionals, kitchen staff and cleaners, will stop work between 11.30am and midday in response to the refusal by NNSWLHD management to pay workers money that is owed for unpaid laundry allowance.
Health Services Union (HSU) NSW Secretary Gerard Hayes said workers were angry that their Laundry Allowance backpay was being held as ransom.
"LHD Management has stated in writing that would take 'no further action' on the payment of unpaid Laundry Allowance because the HSU raised objections to the new Dress and Appearance Policy
"This is outrageous abuse of power, and a form of wage theft."
539 health workers have so far been received backpay, however another 265 are yet receive payments over the NNSWLH's failure to pay the Laundry Allowance over several years.
The staff not being paid their Laundry Allowance include allied health staff employed in hospital and community, all trades staff, scientific and technical staff and oral health staff.
More to come.