2000 faces of protest

2000 faces show the human side of protest against John Howard`s IR laws.

If a picture tells a thousand words, a sea of 2000 nurses’ faces speaks volumes.

Two thousand posters each bearing the image of a different NSW nurse, filled Sydney’s Domain outside Parliament House on Wednesday, 14 March.

It was the last of the ‘Sea of Nurses’ Faces’ events held around NSW in the lead up to the state election.

These events showed the public the human face of this important election. They were a powerful and creative way for nurses to speak out – without disrupting health services by stopping work.

Part of the Nurses’ Rights at Work: Worth Fighting and Voting For campaign, the ‘Sea of Nurses’ Faces’ events ‘consolidated the ads that went to air on television and radio – they were the ground campaign,’ said NSWNA General Secretary, Brett Holmes.

Brett said that by choosing a visual display of real faces, we could represent the number of nurses and jobs that could be negatively affected by IR reforms.

It was fitting that the NSWNA poster girl for the campaign, Karen Fernance, spoke at the Domain as a part of this powerful protest. Karen has adorned billboards, our TV screens and the print media in the Nurses Rights at Work: Worth Fighting and Voting For campaign.

‘We can’t leave this to chance and risk losing nurses from the profession – I do the rosters and am well aware that nurses rely on their allowances,’ said Karen, NUM at Bankstown/Lidcombe Hospital.

Nurses were adamant that they did not want to disrupt their patients so this visual representation was a great way to be there in spirit, especially rural nurses who would not be able to make a trip to Sydney.

Brett Holmes said that more than 120 NSWNA branches passed a resolution in favour of a state-based industrial relations system for public hospital nurses.

‘The current NSW industrial relations system has allowed NSW to provide national leadership in improving nurse wages and conditions and dealing with the nurse shortage,’ said Brett, in his speech at the Domain.

‘Never before have we faced such a serious attack on people’s rights at work.  Never before have we faced a federal takeover of the state industrial relations system – a system that NSW nurses have operated under for nearly 80 years.’

Anne Woodward is all too familiar with the realities of the new IR laws – she was sacked nearly a year ago for voicing her concerns about procedures when she was working at Kapooka Health Centre near Wagga Wagga.

‘I thought it would never happen to me but it did – people aren’t safe – IR laws can take all your rights away,’ said Anne.

‘As we drove into the Domain today my husband joked that the mass of signs looked like a cemetery – it could well be if we don’t stand up for our rights.’