Combet, Iemma pledge to fight for nurses’ rights

`At stake is Australia as we know it`, Combet tells nurses at the NSWNA
`Your Rights at Work` forum.

Three hundred nurses, including busloads from the Central Coast, Blue Mountains and the Illawarra, turned up for a Your Rights At Work forum sponsored by the NSWNA, with ACTU Secretary Greg Combet and NSW Premier Morris Iemma as guests.

A clear theme that emerged from the thoughtful speeches and the lively debate at the Your Rights at Work Forum on 14 June was concern that the federal government’s IR laws will have an enormous impact which will affect us all.

‘We are involved in a political campaign’

When people go to vote in the federal election next year they need to have the federal government’s IR laws as an issue in their forefront of their minds, Greg Combet told the forum.

‘The things we are fighting for are the values that built Australia as we know it. It’s a political campaign that needs to be won,’ he said.
Greg said that public hospital nurses were still at risk of being drawn into the federal system.

‘It is critical in the state election that the Iemma Labor government be re-elected next year. I can’t emphasize that enough.’
Greg pointed out the basic union values that should motivate us to fight these laws.

‘People deserve dignity and respect at work, to have a fair share of prosperity and to have rights at work. Rights such as a career path, recognition of skills, and protection in the workplace. These rights didn’t come by magic. They came through campaigns by nurses over many years. All these things are at stake and we have to fight for them. And fight we will.’

‘They are not going to beat us. They’re not going to beat nurses. I for one would not like to take that challenge on.’

‘Unions are a vital part of the social fabric of this country’

Make no mistake, John Howard’s laws are the most fundamental attack on industrial relations in a century, said NSW Premier Morris Iemma.

‘It is an attack on the pay you take home, the hours you work, your family’s living standards, the safety you enjoy at work and your other conditions.’

‘Those of us who want to build a decent health system, who want to see the health care profession grow stronger are particularly vulnerable.

‘At the state level we can protect public hospital workers, and we have, but this will only survive as long as we have a state Labor government.

‘It is part of our belief in a fairer Australia that justice and fairness in the workplace will only be achieved by people coming together to collectively bargain. That’s our view. We think unions are a vital part of the social fabric of this country and of the economy. The other lot, John Howard and Peter Debnam, see something wrong with that. They are suspicious about workers banding together.’

‘We need to get out of our comfort zone and talk, talk, talk!’

Dianne Lang, an AiN in an aged care facility, told the forum that she had decided to channel her anger about the federal IR changes into a local group on the South Coast of NSW that aimed to educate people about what was happening to their workplace rights.

‘We are a group of committed people who feel John Howard has taken away our rights and we want them back.

‘I tell people: we are not voting for a Liberal or Labor leader. We are voting for a Liberal or Labor policy.

‘So get out of that comfort zone, speak about these IR changes, look beyond next year and see how these changes will affect our children, our parents and our grandparents. We need to get out and talk, talk, talk.’

‘We can’t afford to leave that legacy to our children’

Brett Holmes said he hoped everyone would leave the forum with a strong resolve to take out the message to workplaces, colleagues and family.

‘Why? Because nurses are getting hurt by this legislation. It is attacking nurses. Particularly in our rural communities, how do people uproot their families and move to another town to find another job?’ he said.

‘What sort of society does John Howard want us to live in where people beg or live on charity. It’s a shocking thought that we will live in a society like that.

‘John Howard has set an environment where employers can simply do whatever they like, however they like. We must fight against that. We must see that dignity at work is restored, not just for nurses but for the whole community.

‘Do we want our children entering a workplace where they have no rights, taking the lowest pay or having no job at all? We can’t afford to leave that legacy to our children.’