Strike forces surgery cut

Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital has cancelled all elective surgery today and is warning of delays in its emergency department as hundreds of workers go on strike.

More than 500 health workers are expected to walk off the job from 6am today in the first of a series of rolling stoppages across Perth hospitals over the next fortnight. The action by Health Services Union members is likely to force the cancellation of hundreds of operations, outpatient appointments and medical tests.

Today's 12-hour strike at SCGH will be repeated at Royal Perth Hospital on Thursday, with strikes at Fremantle, Bentley and Armadale hospitals next week. The dispute deepened yesterday as the union and State Government refused to budge on wages.

The Government is offering a 2.75 per cent pay rise to union members but the union says they are entitled to similar increases to those of doctors, nurses and support staff, who have pay rises of about 4 per cent this year.

Last Friday, public servants settled their pay dispute with the Government, after voting to accept a pay deal of 7.75 per cent over three years.

But HSUWA secretary Dan Hill said hospital workers were Health Department employees and should be treated equitably.

"For an employer to provide some of its employees a decent wage rise and not others is divisive and creates tension in the health system," Mr Hill said.

A SCGH spokeswoman warned that people going to the emergency department today could face longer than normal delays.

Commerce Minister Michael Mischin said the strike would achieve nothing except to inconvenience patients.

"Employees who engage in this action and fail to turn up to work will not be paid and I would urge union members to reconsider their position," he said.

"The offer made to the HSU provides for the maximum available under the State Government's wages policy. We do not intend to make exceptions to our wages policy."

The West Australian

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