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Prison nurses bar negotiations

Victorian prison nurses trying to negotiate better work entitlements for around 18 months have called a halt to talks.

About 60 nurses held a two-hour stop-work meeting and banned clerical duties, including filling, collecting data, and receiving phone calls. Bans also include no overtime and no higher duties.

Australian Nursing Federation Victoria members have called on the management of correctional healthcare provider, GEO Care Australia, to come back to the negotiating table.

Lisa Fitzpatrick, secretary of ANF Victoria, said “Nurses have really welcomed the attention and support they’ve received during the stop work rallies because their challenging work behind prison walls is so hidden.”

Fitzpatrick said the bans were having an impact on GEO’s income stream, which is based on the data that the nurses had to enter. Managers also had to perform the extra duties because of the bans.

She said GEO Care pays its nurses approximately 5.5 per cent more than is offered by the public sector, but other penalty conditions are inferior.

“Nurses are seeking back pay of the 2.5 per cent pay rise from July 2012,” she said.

They are also working toward health industry standard penalty rates for public holidays.

She added prison nurses are not paid any leave holding, so they are also seeking for health industry standard annual leave loading of 17.5 per cent.

Lastly, they are fighting for a health industry standard long-service leave. “They currently receive eight weeks at 10 years,” she said.

“Nurses covered by the Nurses Award receive 17.7 weeks at 10 years, (while) nurses under the Victorian nurses and midwives public sector enterprise agreement receive six months at 15 years.”

“GEO Care has offered a cumulative 16.6 per cent increase over four years,” said Ken Davis, spokesperson for GEO Care Australia.

“We believe it to be a fair and reasonable offer,” said Davis.

GEO Care is part of GEO Group, which manages more than 3,300 prisoners across Australia’s correctional facilities. In 2012, GEO Care secured the contract to outsource healthcare in all of Victoria’s 12 publicly managed prisons.

Davis said they are still negotiating on other issues that the prison nurses are raising. “The administrative bans are being responded to in an appropriate manner by GEO Care to ensure the health and safety of patients is not compromised,” he said.

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