Local heroes

Standing up for nurses’ rights

The new IR laws are hurting nurses and their families. Conference delegates heard first-hand the stories of three nurses who were cut down by Lamp … but then they stood up and decided to fight back.

Disciplined with no recourse
Deborah Clarke, AIN at Booroongen Djugan Aboriginal Nursing Home, was threatened with disciplinary action. Deborah suspects this for standing up for safety at work.

‘Staff at the facility suffer assaults, they do double shifts. We had no OHS committee. I tried to improve safety at the workplace by getting up an OHS committee.

‘I involved WorkCover in the process, and they placed Booroongen Djugan Aboriginal Nursing Home on its list of dangerous worksites when they saw how bad things were.

‘In April, I tried to hold a union meeting but management said the union was not allowed on the site. Under the IR laws, workers can’t hold meetings unless they have management permission.

‘So we held it just outside on the side of the road …

‘We need to stand together and stand up to protect rights at work. We need a change of government to protect workers’ rights at work.

Employer agrees with self, 

Wages and conditions slashed
Moira Devlin works as AiN at a nursing home in the north of Sydney. When it closed for renovation, Moira and other staff were moved to other sites run by her employer. She was assured she would be returning to the facility with the same pay and conditions when the renovations were finished.

‘But when we came back we were presented with a non-union agreement. My title had changed from AiN to Lifestyle Officer. I was shocked and felt sick to the stomach. I felt deceived. I was no longer a nurse.

‘My boss said he could do this because it was a new building.

‘I didn’t sign anything but my first pay cheque was $70 less. When I looked into it I was getting no penalties, and no uniform allowance.

‘I was under a Greenfield Agreement where my employer has an agreement with himself. He used Lamp to argue that he was a new employer.

‘Greenfield agreements are not genuine agreements because you can’t have an agreement with only one party.

‘My conditions had been either altered, excluded or reduced. He wanted us to work harder for less money.

Fighting for the right to bargain collectively
Sharon Pippen, CNS at President Private Hospital, doesn’t consider herself a local hero, but she wanted to warn delegates that some employers will take advantage of the new IR laws and behave badly.

Sharon has worked for many years at President Private Hospital, owned by Macquarie Health, and she said there seemed to be a good relationship between management and staff – that was before Lamp came in.

‘We realised that after our NAPSA expired in 2009, we would revert to the five minimum conditions set out in the new IR laws. In order to protect our wages and conditions, we needed to negotiate a union collective agreement.

‘The Branch presented management with numerous resolutions asking to begin negotiations with the NSWNA for a collective agreement. Unfortunately, they failed to respond. Eventually we presented a timetable asking for a response – or we would take action.

‘Management then said if we took action, the staff involved would not get the planned pay increases. But we discovered these pay increases were fictitious, anyway.

‘We erected posters on telegraph poles, did a letter drop, wrote a letter to our local paper, The Leader. But despite this, and because of Lamp, the owners of President Private maintained the upper hand and refused to come to the negotiating table.

‘While we haven’t achieved a union collective agreement, we have raised awareness in our community of the injustice of John Howard’s Lamp legislation, which does not give Australians the right to bargain collectively. Hopefully, this will influence people’s voting pattern at the up-and-coming election.