A recent Sydney Morning Herald (26 April) article by Julie Robotham reported that ‘NSW Health dumped dozens of sick, unqualified and chronically absent staff on the consortium that has taken over the running of Royal North Shore Hospital, the head of the $1.1 billion project claims.’ This is an issue that BSCs need to be wary of when taking on public private partnership (PPP) contracts.
The under-performing staff ”would never be hired … if our contractors were recruiting from the general workforce,” noted Infrashore CEO Scott Gartrell, when writing to a deputy director-general at NSW Health, Karen Crawshaw. ”They represent an unreasonable burden,” Gartrell added.
‘The disclosures shed more light on the un-raveling relationship between the state Health Ministry and Infrashore, the consortium backed by the Royal Bank of Scotland and contracted to rebuild the facility and run its maintenance, security and patient services in a public-private partnership – the biggest involving a NSW hospital.
‘Under the public-private partnership, the subcontractors Thiess Services and ISS Health Services manage NSW Health employees, and may directly employ casual staff. The subcontractors are responsible for ”discipline and performance” of the government employees but must adhere to NSW Health workplace policies.’
According to the SMH article, ISS Facility Services chief executive Dane Hudson said patient intake rose dramatically after the deal was signed in 2007, increasing demand for cleaning and portering. The hospital had not disclosed the extra workload and had been unwilling to renegotiate payments, he said.
”We commenced discussions in 2011 because it wasn’t tenable,” Hudson explained, and in January ISS slashed its casual workforce to 45 from 80. He said the company was losing money. ”We’ve been trying to negotiate in good faith on fair compensation,” he pointed out.
Last week the NSW Industrial Relations Commission ordered the company to take on 20 more casual staff while a dispute brought by the Health Services Union was resolved.