Blue Mountains nurses get on board

Organising drive wins new aged care members.

Aged care nurses in the Blue Mountains are joining the union, forming NSWNA branches and getting involved in the campaign against the Howard government’s industrial relations changes.

Thirty nurses from seven nursing homes joined the union during a recent organising drive.

Ten members volunteered to register as workplace activists who will act as contact points between union officers and members. New Association branches are being formed in five nursing homes, and a branch for DONs is also being set up.

The successful organising drive was the first in the mountains by the union’s Strategic Workplace Organising Team, which aims to strengthen members’ bargaining power in aged care facilities.

A busload of Blue Mountains nurses travelled from Katoomba to the union’s ‘Your Rights At Work’ forum in Sydney. Carrying banners and balloons they marched to the Masonic Centre chanting: ‘Nurses care about their rights at work!’

One nurse was so moved by the experience she joined the union the next day. Another took along her two teenage sons so they could learn more about the issues.

Like other passengers, Jay Davis from Springwood Nursing Home joined the bus after finishing a morning shift and had to work the next morning.

‘But I’m really glad I went, and I’m glad the union made it easier for us to attend by putting on a bus. It was great to meet other nurses from the mountains and make a stand together with them against these new laws.

‘A lot of people still don’t realise just how bad these laws are. Others do under-stand but feel powerless to change anything,’ Jay said.

‘But that’s the thing about being a union member – there is power in numbers, and if we work together we can make a difference.

‘Change starts from the grassroots, with people like us standing up and saying, “No, I don’t agree with this”.’

Jay said Springwood nursing home workers including kitchen and maintenance staff discussed the new laws the day after the rally.

‘This isn’t only about us nurses, it affects everyone including our children. It’s going to decide what sort of working world they go into.’

All Blue Mountains residents interested in the future of aged care are invited to a forum in Katoomba on 26 July.

The aged care action forum will be held at the Emergency Services hall, corner of Bathurst Rd and Valley Rd, from 6pm. Refreshments will be served from 5.30pm.

The NSWNA encourages nurses and other staff, carers, families of residents and anyone with an interest in the issue to attend.