Address from NSWNA General Secretary Brett Holmes
Building membership and bargaining are crucial
At a time when the NSWNA is waging a strong campaign to ensure sufficient nurse numbers in the public health system, NSWNA General Secretary Brett Holmes stressed the importance of building membership and organising around safe patient care, which he said are ‘critical to our survival’.
Brett said the NSWNA had achieved a number of excellent wins in the private hospital sector and in aged care in the past year, and members were also to be congratulated on these achievements.
‘Another great achievement is the development and uptake of the ACAA template agreement with for-profit aged care employers,’ said Brett.
‘In the new industrial climate bargaining is critical to winning new agreements in the aged care and private hospital sectors, and protecting members in the Federal system,’ said Brett. ‘It’s crucial members get involved and ask non members at their workplace to join the union.’
On the upcoming Federal election, Brett told delegates to think about who will make the most difference to nurses, and cited Labor as the party most willing to discuss and commit to adequate funding and sufficient numbers of nurses.
‘Labor seems the clear choice on aged care, health and industrial relations. We must maintain the pressure to ensure there are sufficient numbers of nurses and we all need to think about this when we vote on 21 August,’ said Brett.
Address by Nicola Roxon, Federal Minister for Health and Ageing
‘You can’t trust Tony Abbott on health and nurses’ rights at work’
Federal Minister for Health and Ageing Nicola Roxon took aim at the Liberal Party, arguing that it would take the country back to the days of WorkChoices and underfunding of the health system.
‘Tony Abbott still has your rights at work in his sights. WorkChoices is in his DNA. You cannot trust Abbott when it comes to industrial relations,’ said Ms Roxon.
‘Julia Gillard’s first task was to dismantle WorkChoices, which particularly impacted on women and nurses with its attack on AWAs and penalty rates.’
Ms Roxon then took the opportunity to set out Labor’s achievements and reforms in health and praised nurses for their hard work.
‘I understand the importance of nurses to the health system. The health system cannot run without you.’
She confirmed that aged care would be the Government’s priority if re-elected, but warned that all the Labor Government’s plans for health reform would be scuttled if the Liberals took power.
‘Under the Liberals there is a history of negligence. Since they have been in opposition, they’ve been missing in action when it comes to aged care. Our reform plans are at risk if Tony Abbott gets his hands on aged care and health,’ said Ms Roxon.
‘The Gillard Government is a better choice for health.’
Address by Carmel Tebbutt, NSW Deputy Premier and Minister for Health
Nurses do a ‘fantastic job’
NSW Deputy Premier and Minister of Health Carmel Tebbutt praised the work of nurses and midwives.
‘Nurses and midwives are the backbone of the health system. I’m very grateful for your hard work. You make a huge difference to patients in NSW. You do a fantastic job and we recognise this,’ Ms Tebbutt told delegates.
She admitted that negotiating the new nurses’ award would be ‘challenging’ but said the Government would negotiate in good faith.
‘It might not deliver all you want, nor all we want, but we recognise the critical role of nurses to the health system,’ said Ms Tebbutt.
Address by NSWNA Assistant General Secretary Judith Kiejda
Ratios will be a hard fight
Workloads was the main focus of NSWNA Assistant General Secretary Judith Kiejda’s conference address.
‘We had some initial successes with the workloads tool but management has learnt to frustrate the process,’ she said, adding that the workloads tool had ‘reached its use-by date’.
‘We decided we needed a new model that addresses the needs of today’s health system. The only system that truly seems to work is the mandated ratios model in Victoria,’ said Judith.
She pointed out that only California and Victoria currently utilise a system of mandated ratios and that securing them will be a ‘hard fight’.
‘If we get ratios in place, providing enough nurses with the right skills for safe patient care, then more reasonable workloads are assured, but it will be a hard fight. This is going to be the fight of our life,’ said Judith.
Encouraging non-union nurses to join the NSWNA is critical to ensuring the success of the ratios campaign, Judith said. ‘Delegates, you may need to take some kind of action. And we need everyone to invite non-members to join.’
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