Nurses must be heard – March 2007

NSWNA campaign gives nurses a voice

Your union has just launched a TV and radio advertising campaign leading up to the NSW state election in defence of nurses’ rights at work.

We have done so because we identify a new, clear and present danger to nurses’ interests from a change in state government.

The decision to engage in this campaign has not been taken lightly or without extensive consultation. Over 125 of our branches have voted in support of a campaign to protect their rights. This paid advertising is simply a part of that wider campaign.

Since the introduction of the federal government’s IR laws, many of our members working in aged care and the private sector have been exposed to the worst excesses of these laws. They have lost hard-fought for conditions through individual contracts or insidious ‘greenfields’ agreements. They have been unfairly dismissed, even for doing their duty, without any recourse to unfair dismissal laws.

Many nurses are already getting hurt now because of these laws. We have 19,000 members that are vulnerable to these laws.

The NSW Opposition gives nurses a one-line promise to keep public hospital nurses under a state award but at the same time it supports the move of industrial relations into the federal system. This position is obviously riddled with contradictions.

They have refused to stand up to John Howard and defend the nurses already forced into the federal system.

They are completely silent about what they would do to the NSW Industrial Relations Commission which has been the body responsible for giving nurses better pay and conditions over recent years.

On the other hand, we need to acknowledge that State Labor has unequivocally opposed Howard’s unfair industrial relations laws from the very beginning. It made a very serious political intervention to protect public health system nurses and workers as well as other frontline workers such as police and ambulance officers from the laws. They have passed legislation to protect young people. They contested the IR laws in the high court.

Nurses have to ask themselves – as does the wider community – when it comes to voting in this election: will Peter Debnam stand up to John Howard about his workplace laws and in the same vigorous way state Labor has?

In this campaign we’ve asked the community to vote for nurses and to help save their rights and conditions.

We’ve done so because we have done an analysis that reveals the federal IR laws, which Peter Debnam is in favour of, are against the interests of our members. This analysis is spelt out in a report Industrial relations policy and the NSW nurse shortage, which is available for you to download from our website (www.nswnurses.asn.au).

This report and its analysis has been endorsed by a respected and in-dependent academic John Buchanan from Sydney Uni-ver–sity, who has a deep understanding of both IR and nursing issues.

The funds for this campaign have come from our Nurse Power Fund. This fund was created after an extensive and long debate among our branches, at two annual conferences and at numerous committees of delegates.

It was created for this very purpose. At the time we said we needed to adopt the tactics used by politicians – including paid advertising – to defend nurses’ interests. Politicians know television is the medium with the most impact. That is why we are using it.

There is no better time than an election to focus politicians and the community on nurse issues. Already, running a campaign about the need to maintain nurses’ conditions has resulted in both political parties making promises in favour of our members.

We can’t and won’t sit on our hands and watch a train wreck with nurses as the casualties without asking the public for help.