An opportunity to change the rules

Australia needs policies and an economic direction that deliver a better life for working Australians.

The federal election to be held on 18 May will have significant consequences for nurses and midwives. At stake for NSWNMA members are fairness in the workplace, a better deal for aged care and the proper funding of our public health system.

The NSWNMA is committed to the ACTU campaign to “Change the Rules”. The goal of this campaign is to restore fairness for working Australians. Currently the laws are unbalanced and give employers too much power. They are also increasingly recognised as a drag on our economy.

The changes unions are seeking – transforming the minimum wage into a living wage, tackling casual and insecure work, investing in health and education, bolstering retirement incomes, tackling climate change and making our tax system fairer – are essential and urgent if Australia is to remain prosperous. And they’re essential and urgent if the benefits of that prosperity are to flow through to all Australian workers.

Changing the rules to make the workplace fairer would have a direct impact on nurses and midwives working in private hospitals and aged care.

The rules around bargaining and the rights of workers are currently loaded in favour of employers. The make it difficult to get better wages and staffing including the winning of ratios.

Employers are given the power to stop listening to unions and to shut down bargaining. They prevent nurses and midwives in private hospitals and aged care from achieving significant improvements because employers have the upper hand. They limit the capacity of nurses to use industrial pressure. Already we are hampered with 6 procedural steps that we must undertake before we can take industrial action.

The aged care crisis is a national disgrace

As we have reported time and again in The Lamp aged care is in crisis. The large companies that dominate the sector have been allowed to put their profits before care even though billions of taxpayers’ money prop up the system.

Nursing care has been diminished for financial gain and the trends are for worse. The ANMF and the NSWNMA have put forward concrete measures to improve care in the sector and to make providers accountable and transparent.

We want to see changes that will “Make Ratios in Aged Care Law Now”. We know staff-to-resident ratios are the solution. Legislated staffing ratios in aged care will ensure nursing hours are mandated for each resident.

Equally our public health system needs more support from the federal government. This Liberal National government started its term in office with a horrendous budget that slashed health spending – the consequences of which are still being felt to this day.

Bafflingly for health experts and health economists, the biggest cuts came in the areas of preventative health and community health – widely acknowledged as the most cost effective ways of delivering health care.

Neoliberalism has run its course

We also need a change in the economic direction of the country.

For some time now major economic institutions have been ringing the alarm bells about the direction of the Australian economy.

They been warning, with increasing urgency, that tackling inequality and poor wage growth are fundamental to strong economic performance.

These conservative institutions realise that the world has changed and the neoliberal economic direction that has dominated developed economies for the last 40 years has run its course.

In aged care and public health, as in the economy and social policy there has to be change. The federal election we face on May 18 gives 
us the opportunity to bring about that change.

The ACTU has been very clear in its message to union members about what is required to get the country back on track so workers and their families get a fair go: we need to change the rules and to do that we need to change the government.

It is hard to argue with that logic.