Nurses the real winners in this election – April 2007

One criteria underpins our campaigns: what`s in the best interests of NSW nurses

The state election has been decided and we believe the outcome is in the best interests of nurses. The Association ran a very strong campaign in defence of nurses’ rights and I do not resile from the reasons for doing so.

I was determined that NSW public health system nurses did not suffer the same fate as their colleagues in private hospitals and aged care facilities.

The NSWNA was determined to prevent what is left of the NSW industrial relations system – a system the NSW nurses have operated under for nearly 80 years – going down the same road as the current federal system.

There is no point beating around the bush on this. It was in the best interests of NSW nurses – in all sectors – to keep public hospital nurses in the current NSW industrial relations system, with its state Commission and its independent arbitration powers.

This system has allowed NSW to provide national leadership in improving nurse wages and conditions and dealing with the nurse shortage.

The extension of the Continuing Education Allowance (see story page 12) is a good example of another significant improvement for nurses achieved through access to the NSW Industrial Relations Commission.

The Continuing Education Allowance provides an incentive for some nurses to return to specialty areas where there are acute shortages like mental health and midwifery.

This and other improvements to nurses’ conditions could not have been achieved under John Howard’s industrial relations laws.

Why?

Because employers do not want it.

We will maintain our independence

The state election campaign does not mean we have changed our position on party affiliation. The NSWNA will remain unaffiliated to any political party.  We will choose and conduct our future campaigns as we have in the past: according to the criteria of what is best for nurses.

We will continue to run strong campaigns that we feel are in the best interests of NSW nurses including, if it is necessary, against any government or recalcitrant employers.

There are several things to consider in the wash up of the election:

  • during the course of the election campaign, both major political parties improved their previous positions on nursing as a result of our pressure;
  • nursing policy is now a feature on all major parties’ agendas, not just a subline in a general health policy. Ensuring that the Labor party sticks to its promises is now our major task;
  • it is vital we continue to support NSW nurses working in private hospitals and aged care facilities who have already lost their State Awards and access to the NSW Industrial Relations Commission.

For public hospital nurses, there are dangers that remain. We cannot be complacent because the Iemma government has been returned with an ongoing commitment to protect public health system nurses.

The Howard government has already tied the funding of tertiary education to the implementation of its workplace laws in the universities, in particular the offering of AWAs. This tactic could equally be applied to the public health sector.

We must remain vigilant. Our campaign to protect nurses’ rights at work must continue up to the federal election later this year and beyond. There is a lot at stake and those rights are still worth fighting and voting for. We intend that in the ongoing debate our voices continue to be heard and there is no doubt our voices will be heard.

Finally, I’d like to put to rest rumours that were put out about me during the election campaign by some of the more rabid media commentators: that I was looking for a parliamentary seat for the Labor Party.

This is a lie. My political and personal commitment is to this union and I intend staying here and serving the NSWNA membership.