Workers at 16 Sydney hospitals to down tools over staff parking hikes

Fury is brewing among hospital workers over drastic increases to parking in metropolitan Sydney hospitals, with staff across 16 hospitals walking off the job over hikes to staff parking amid a cost-of-living crisis.

About 1000 workers, including psychologists, scientists, theatre technicians, kitchen staff, cleaners, and security guards, will down tools between 12pm to 2pm on Wednesday.

Organised protests will also happen at five major hospitals including Westmead, Westmead Children’s, Concord, Liverpool and Campbelltown.

While free parking for hospital staff was implemented as a Covid measure, the scheme ended on January 31 of this year. Since then employees who drive to work are charged $11 a day, which totals to about $2600 a year.

If workers have parking permits, with applications subjected to years-long waitlists, they are charged up to $27.20 per week, or about $1300 a year. Prior to Covid-concessions coming into place, weekly fees were about $12 a week.

The hikes have applied to metropolitan locations, while staffing parking remains free at regional and rural hospitals.

HSU assistant secretary Lauren Hutchins said charging staff $2600 amid soaring inflation and interest rats was “obscene and immoral”.

The union are now threatening further action, following three unsuccessful meetings with the Ministry of Health.

“The great parking gouge must stop,” she said.

“Managers love to mouth platitudes about health workers, but then sting them with sneaky taxes. It’s just not on.

“Health workers across NSW sacrificed their own wellbeing to protect the community during the Covid-19 pandemic. This is a funny way to thank them for their sacrifice.“

Last week, nurses and midwives from the NSW Nurses and Midwives’ Association (NSWNMA) rallied outside Concord Hospital in protest of the hikes.

NSWNMA secretary Shaye Candish said the fee hikes were undoing the 4 per cent pay increases brokered by the government in September last year.

“The below inflation 4 per cent pay increase that public sector nurses and midwives received in 2023 is being clawed back by the government’s decision to rescind free parking,” she said.

“These carparking changes have the potential to further hinder recruitment and retention of health staff and we call on the NSW government to urgently reconsider this decision.”

Previously speaking about the issue, NSW Health Minister Ryan Park said free parking for staff was a temporary Covid measure, and parking needed to be balanced to ensure it was still accessible to patients and their families.

Speaking to reporters on January 30, he said it was a “challenging balance’”.

“I understand and I hear from our frontline health care workers … and I’m certainly open to continuing to working and engaging with the workforce,” he said.

“I’ve also got to make sure that parking is available for patients, families and visitors in and around our hospitals which are always challenged.”

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