Nurses were the biggest single group represented at a meeting to launch the North West Community Unions Alliance in Tamworth last month.Nurses from Tamworth Base Hospital, as well as outlying areas such as Barraba and Werris Creek, attended the meeting.
“By getting involved in the Alliance we can campaign on issues of mutual concern with other public sector unions and the community generally. It gives us a much stronger voice,” Gerard Jeffery, a CNS at Tamworth Hospital said.
Gerard, who is the NSWNMA’s branch president and delegate at the hospital, said Tamworth hospital nurse Roz Norman, a branch delegate and an Association Councillor, played a key role in establishing the North West Alliance.
Roz Norman co-chaired the inaugural meeting with a delegate from the Police Association, Tamworth policeman Martin Burke. Martin said the meeting, with 15 unions present, represented a broad cross section of the local workforce.
“We all agreed on the need to join together at a local level to campaign on issues, rather than each of us running our own race. We see the main issues as job security, health care, education, public safety, and attacks on workers’ conditions generally.”
Martin said the impact of the recent closure of Grafton jail on local residents was a warning of the potential community-wide effects of state government funding cuts.
“Grafton’s closure not only impacted Corrective Services staff but also TAFE teachers, who delivered training at the prison, and police, who are now lumbered with more prisoner transports and more baby sitting of prisoners, which detracts from our front line work to ensure community safety.
“Prison employees have left Grafton to take up jobs at facilities in other towns, which means their kids are taken out of schools, making it harder to support teaching jobs.
“Many businesses that relied on the jail, and the patronage of visitors to the jail, for a large part of their turnover, are now in trouble.”
Gerard Jeffery said the planned cuts to the NSW Health wages bill would make it harder for nurses to ensure staff-to-patient ratios were implemented and maintained, according to the award.
“In Hunter New England Health, and across the state, managers are finding various reasons not to implement ratios,” he said.
“This is by far the biggest concern members have at Tamworth hospital. “We have been keeping stats since ratios became an award condition and we have hardly ever had the correct number of nurses on the wards.
“It affects patients in a big way because they’re not getting the care they need and deserve. Cutting nursing positions through measures like voluntary redundancy, which I’m sure the government intends, will only lead to a further degradation of services.”
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