Lismore Catholic hospital bows to protesters demanders

Unionists, who last week threatened to protest outside Catholic Masses in Lismore, NSW, have called off their campaign after St Vincent's Hospital assured workers that redundancies would be voluntary and that workers would be paid all entitlements.

The Northern Echo reports that protests planned by the Health Services Union (HSU) at local Catholic churches this Sunday have been called off following the new agreement.

HSU members were told last week that under the hospital's planned restructure nine full-time positions would be scrapped this month - with up to 40 more redundancies to follow.

As a result, around 50 HSU members planned to hold rallies outside Catholic churches during Sunday mass this weekend. However, a meeting between the HSU and management this week has seemingly placated the union, the Echo says.

The agreement emerged following a meeting between hospital workers and Lismore Bishop Geoffrey Jarrett (pictured), the Northern Star reported.

HSU North Coast organiser Ken McIntosh said that management had given assurances they would offer voluntary redundancies and have also guaranteed full entitlements. Management also promised the HSU that it would have a continuing role in representing its members during redundancy negotiations, that members would retain their current conditions if employed in another position within the hospital and that management would try to minimise any impacts of the restructure.

However, management have also said they will impose forced redundancies if not enough members volunteer. Mr McIntosh said if that was the case, protest actions would begin in earnest.

"Members will not proceed with the protest campaign at this stage but if the wheels fall off we'll have no hesitation in implementing it," he said.

The dispute began late last month when hospital board chairman Frank Hannigan and new chief executive Bob Walsh issued a statement saying the restructure was necessary to keep the hospital viable, but offered little detail as to what it would involve.

Management has also begun talks with the NSW Nurses Association, whose members could also face redundancy, but at this stage no details have been forthcoming.

But Mr Hannigan said local media reports on the number of jobs that would be cut, previously thought to be around 50, were overblown.

Protests cancelled after St Vincent's meets demands (Northern Echo, 12/10/06)
Bishop meets with St Vincent's workers over jobs (Northern Star, 6/10/06)

LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
St Vincent's Hospital, Lismore
Hospital Services Union
Catholic diocese of Lismore

Hospital staff in Mass protest over job cuts (CathNews, 6/10/06)

13 Oct 2006