We can’t trust the Coalition on workplace rights

EditorialJuly2011July 2011

Barry O’Farrell’s attack on public sector wages and conditions shows that the Liberal Party’s commitment to rolling back workplace rights is as strong as ever.

‘WorkChoices is dead, buried and cremated.’ It was a catchy and effective line from Tony Abbott during the 2010 federal election. Obviously not everyone in the Liberal Party believes that to be true. Certainly not Barry O’Farrell.

Abbott’s repudiation of WorkChoices did a lot to convince voters that the Coalition had learnt its lesson from the previous election. That they had listened to the Australian people when they clearly said they wanted an industrial relations system that delivered fairness and protected workplace rights.

The union movement was understandably sceptical and the current actions of the NSW Liberal Party vindicate our stance.

Abbott has been given the opportunity, in the media, to reject the NSW Liberal Party’s new laws. He has conspicuously failed to do so.

Despite what they say, or in the case of John Howard in 2007 and Barry O’Farrell in 2010 what they don’t say, the rolling back of workplace and union rights is an article of faith for the Liberal Party.

O’Farrell’s new laws are draconian. They will allow the government to unilaterally set public sector wages and conditions. They shift power massively towards management during negotiations for public sector wages and conditions. They reduce the IR Commission to a rubber stamp for government wages policy.

The consequences for NSW nurses are serious. The new laws will have an immediate impact on pay negotiations in Ageing, Disability and Home Care (ADHC). Our night duty case currently before the NSW IR Commission is under threat.

When the Public Health System Award comes up for negotiation in 2013, the new laws will mean any pay increase above 2.5% will only be won if major offsets are delivered prior to the pay increases being granted.

The NSWNA and the union movement will not sit back and watch as the rights of nurses and other public sector workers are eroded.

12,000 people rallied outside Parlia­ment, on a rain-drenched day, immediately after the laws were passed.

We will continue to fight these unjust and unjustifiable laws. I urge you to join us in doing so at every opportunity.

Conversion of first wards to ratios underway

Despite some initial hiccups, the conversion of the first wards to the new nursing hours/ratios system in our public health system is underway.

NSW Health has made available the funding to increase the staffing of the first wards to the ratios won in our pay and conditions campaign. We believe around 45 wards will be converted during July. This will represent about 180 FTE positions on current estimates.

This is part of the first tranche of wards to be converted by 30 June. The rest will be progressively delivered.

We have conveyed our concerns to NSW Health that stronger recruitment initiatives need to be undertaken to keep to the timetable outlined in the Memo­randum of Understanding.

The funding is available from Treasury so the department needs to raise its game in advertising and promoting the available positions if they are to meet the targets.
It is fantastic that the first wards are converting but we want to see it happening at a faster rate.

There have been other obstacles.

AHPRA registration requirements mean some nurses are facing barriers re-entering the workforce because they have been out of nursing for more than five years.

NSW Health has stated they will be able to catch up to the timetable outlined in the MOU over the coming months.