Strong action for safe patient care- December 2010-January 2011

A successful strike resulted in the Government starting negotiations on our ratios claim.

This month’s issue of The Lamp goes to print days after the strike of 24 November.
I would like to thank all those mem­bers who took the courageous decision to join our strike. I know it is not an easy decision for nurses to take industrial action. Our first instinct is always to remain at the bed­side and provide care to our patients.

The intransigence of the NSW Government and NSW Health – which refused to enter into meaningful nego­tiations about ratios during seven months of talks – left us with no choice but to take such strong action.

The Special General Meeting of members at Olympic Park was a me­mo­rable occasion and will go down as an important moment in the history of the NSW Nurses’ Association.
It was a day that made me very proud to be the leader of this Union.

For a large number of nurses, this was their first experience of industrial action. This was one of the most encouraging aspects of the day. For most it was their first experience of a large-scale strike. The huge dose of energy, enthusiasm and commitment that they brought to the arena is a very good sign for the future health of the Union.

There was just as much solidarity outside the Sydney metropolitan area. Through­out the State nurses and midwives did whatever they could to send a message to the Government that we are deadly serious about the issue of patient safety.

In the end over 190 NSWNA Branches voted to support the action.

The community supports us
There is widespread community support for what we are doing.

As The Lamp goes to print over 15,000 people have registered their support on our campaign website

It is worth reading through the comments on this website. You get an appreciation of the strong support the public has for what we are trying to achieve with our campaign.
They understand the pressures nurses operate under every day trying to deliver the sort of care that patients need and want. They understand the system is under severe strain. They understand the dire consequences if nothing is done. They understand and appreciate and respect what we are doing to get the whole thing fixed.

We should take courage from this support. Because that is why we are doing it: To protect the interests of our patients and the integrity of the public health system.

Next steps
The Special General Meeting resolved to continue industrial action through bed closures if the Keneally Government did not come back with a constructive offer about ratios within a week of that meeting.

On Friday 26 November, the NSW Go­vernment gave NSW Health the authority to enter into con­sul­tation under the guidance of the NSW IRC to dis­cuss our claims in­clu­ding, in their terms, work- ­load issues. Consultation commenced at 9.30am Monday, 29 Novem­ber 2010 and continues as we go to press.

The NSW Government’s posi­tion is particularly galling when it is compared to the attitude and actions of the Victorian Labor Government.

The Victorian Government im­ple­mented ratios nearly a decade ago and went into this month’s State election trum­peting their success and promising to improve them and extend them into other nursing areas. Regardless of the election outcome, our Victorian nurses and midwives will continute to fight to retain and improve their ratios.

The Victorian nurses and the Californian nurses who have already been through similar struggles to win mandated nurse-to-patient ratios (see p.12) always tell us that ratios were never handed to them on a plate. They fought long and hard to win them.
We have to be conscious that we need to be resolute and may have to show similar stamina to achieve our goal.

After the actions of 24 November the Government will be in no doubt about our resolve and the willingness of our members to mobilise for this issue that they are so passionate about.
The ball is in their court: are they going to join nurses, midwives and the community and support mandated nurse-to-patient ratios so we can deliver justice for our patients and improve the safety and quality of our public health system?