Time to challenge climate of fear

The state government’s treatment of public sector employees encourages health sector managers to flout industrial awards argues Judith Kiejda.

Public sector nurses need to stand together  and “hold management to account” when managers disregard industrial laws, Assistant Secretary Judith Kiejda told the NSWNMA’s 2017 national conference.

She said the state government has created a climate that allowed managers of public employees – nurses, midwives, police, firefighters, paramedics and others – to “rule with fear and threats”.

The government has capped wage increases at 2.5 per cent which it insisted should also cover improvements such as better staffing ratios.

It changed workplace health and safety laws to disadvantage injured workers and “rendered impotent” the Industrial Relations Commission – supposedly the independent umpire – to make it a “rubber stamp” for the government.

“That climate then gave managers working in public health the idea that they didn’t have to pay attention to the Award – they could flout the rules with no comeback.

“We know what the issues are but as ACTU president Ged Kearney said recently, ‘we don’t just need to wise up we need to rise up.’ We need to change those rules back to a more balanced work environment.”

Management needs to be held to account Judith said management needed to be held to account, particularly on staffing levels.

“The skill mix is wrong on so many shifts and the numbers are not much better.

“It doesn’t matter if you are a 6 NHPPD hospital or a 5 NHPPD hospital or an aged care facility – if you haven’t got what you need to do the job we must advocate for those in our care.”

Judith praised recent actions by NSWNMA branches at Nyngan Hospital, Dubbo Base Hospital and Hornsby Hospitals.

“Look at how Hornsby Branch arced up when management decided they were going to put AiNs in mental health ICU.

“We need to see that level of commitment right across the state in every facility where our professional standards are compromised because we are not allowed to have the resources we need.

“If you can’t get the staff you need to deliver safe care, get angry about it. Maybe you need to close some beds or refuse admissions until the staff requirements are adequate – just like Belmont Hospital has done this past week.

“If you can’t get off duty on time don’t just accept it – put in for your overtime. Too bad if it’s not allowed, take back control.

“If they don’t backfill leave in the community health centre don’t pick up the slack; if you can’t get your mandatory education done in work time, don’t do it.

“The only rule in any of this is you can’t do it on your own. You need the power of numbers – whether it’s your unit or your total facility – or maybe take some action on a different day for each unit.

“Wear ribbons, sit down for 15 minutes – there are so many ways to make them understand that you are serious.”