Let’s take this union to another level

Unity within our own ranks and with other unions and the community is the key to meeting the challenges we face.

This year our annual conference had the theme of Challenge, Inspire, Change: effectively a call to arms to lift our union to another level.

All the strengths of our union were on display at conference: great delegates, vigorous debate, the airing of new ideas, a sober analysis of our challenges and a strong commitment by all to make the Association better and stronger.

Frankly, this isn’t a choice. We need to be better and stronger if we are to meet and face the challenges in front of us.

These challenges also got a good airing at conference: improving and extending ratios, confronting the crisis in aged care, the fight against unfair workplace laws and the need to grow the union, among others.

If we are going to win on these issues there is no place for complacency. We have to get better. We have to get stronger.

In an interview in this month’s Lamp (pp. 22–23), ACTU Secretary Sally McManus makes the point that employers have become harder and the union movement has to get harder too if we are to repel the attacks on working conditions in Australia.

This is not just happening in the private sector. Our Assistant General Secretary Judith Kiejda pointed out at conference how public sector health managers are also taking advantage of these laws and government policies to flout industrial awards (p10).

Workplace laws at both the federal and state level are skewed in favour of employers and have emboldened them to try and push back on our rights and conditions of work.

This is not empty rhetoric from the union movement. Numerous economists, including inside the federal Treasury, have been vocal recently about the alarming decline in real wages while profits have continued to soar.

This is a direct consequence of these unfair workplace laws that not only increases inequality but weakens our economy.

Patients and the elderly need us to be strong

Getting better and getting stronger is not just necessary to improve the working lives of nurses and midwives. It’s not just about us. It’s also about the people who depend on us. Patients and aged care residents also need us to be strong.

ANMF Federal Secretary Lee Thomas points out in this Lamp (p.11) how a lack of minimum staffing regulations and inappropriate skills mix is harming vulnerable elderly residents. It is our responsibility to give a voice to the elderly and their families and to fight for the care they need and deserve. They need a champion and who else is going to do it but us.

The Minister for Mental Health made it clear at conference that the NSW government won’t budge on ratios. We need to be relentless in getting our message out to the community that ratios save lives and to put pressure on the government to implement them.

The key to finding solutions to these problems and challenges is that we stand together and fight for what is right.

We need to consolidate and build on the strong relationships we have with other unions and the community.

And importantly, we need to engage and convince all nurses and midwives to join us at the NSWNMA, to challenge and to inspire, so we can bring about the change we all believe in.