Nurses at five private hospitals across Sydney have taken to the streets in a historic 24-hour strike over pay rates.
Dozens of nurses gathered at Martin Place in the city centre this morning demanding their employer, Macquarie Hospital Services, increase their wages unconditionally.
"You have been extraordinarily patient dealing with this employer," NSW Nurses Association general secretary Brett Holmes told the nurses who were wearing white nurses' caps and bearing flags and banners.
Holmes said lengthy negotiations with the company's owner, Dr Tom Wenkart, had led to "a lousy offer" of 3.5 per cent increase in the first year and two per cent in following years.
This was on the condition that nurses "roll in (their) allowances, agree to accept four weeks instead of five weeks annual leave and then be subject to a very strange and unfair process of assessment," he said.
It was an outrage, he added.
The nurses are looking for an unconditional five per cent annual pay rise and the maintenance of all their current conditions.
They say they are currently paid 10 per cent less than nurses in other private hospitals.
The hospitals affected by today's strike are Eastern Suburbs Private Hospital at Randwick, Manly Waters Private Hospital at Manly, Delmar Private Hospital at Dee Why, Minchinbury Community Hospital at Mount Druitt and President Private Hospital at Kirrawee.
The nurses waved their banners and yelled, "What do we want? Fair pay. When do we want it?
Now," throughout the rally, which was due to be repeated at each of the hospitals throughout the day.
The decision to strike was "very unusual", but the nurses felt they had no choice but to make the community aware of their conditions, NSWNA assistant secretary Judith Kiejda said.
"This is historic - private hospital nurses have never been on strike in NSW before," she said.
But the community was mistakenly under the impression private hospital nurses were paid more than public nurses, Kiejda added.
"That just couldn't be further from the truth.
"No private hospital except for St Vincent's Private pays public sector rates, so they're always a little bit behind. And this lot are 10 per cent behind."
The nurses had the option to leave the company, but many of them were established in their career and enjoyed the camaraderie of working for a small team, she said.
The 24-hour strike might not have the same impact on the community as a strike in a big public hospital, "but it will have a significant impact on the routine of these smaller hospitals," she said.
"He (Wenkart) wants to "pay bottom dollar but have the top skills," she added.
"These nurses are saying enough's enough."
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