Unions are angry that the head of Sydney’s Prince of Wales Hospital has emailed staff warning them against circulating petitions on hospital grounds about job cuts.
The Health Services Union claims 300 jobs are on the line as the hospital tries to improve its financial position and its members have resolved to run a petition campaign on the issue.
In an email on Monday the hospital’s CEO Terry Clout told staff that they are not allowed to collect signatures while on duty or in areas used by patients and visitors.
The letter says union activities can take place offsite and in staff rooms while staff are not on paid duty.
This approach prevents patients or visitors from being exposed to inappropriate or unwelcome approaches at what can often be times of considerable stress and vulnerability for them.
But the secretary of the NSW Nurses Association Brett Holmes says it is a worrying development, designed to minimise public awareness about cuts to the system.
“There are severe approaches being taken by management trying to meet their budgets,” he said.
“But at the same time they are trying to quieten it down so that there is not too much public knowledge about what is going on.”
Terry Clout is defending the email, saying it was meant to clarify to staff what their responsibilities are while on duty.
“In my view it was important to make clear to staff what the expectation of the health service is in their attention to sick and vulnerable patients,” he said.
“And to make it clear that they needed to act within the code of conduct.”