Nurses in the state of, Australia have been involved in an eight month dispute with the government over pay, and staffing levels. They have now been banned from striking by 'Fair Work Australia', an alleged independent arbitration service, and potentially face fines and prison should they strike. After months of selling out the workers, the Australian nurses federation has bowed to pressure from the rank and file and says they will defy the ban.
Nurses in the Australian state of Victoria have been banned from striking by the government’s industrial tribunal, Fair Work Australia (FWA). Nurses have been warned that they will face heavy fines and imprisonment should they push ahead with planned industrial action.
The nurses have been involved in a long running dispute with the state government over pay and nurse-patients ratio.
The Australian nursing federation has vowed to defy the ban, but will stop strikes with immediate effect if employers return to the negotiating table. This tough talking is meaningless as they have been complicit with the bosses throughout the dispute.
Nurses are demanding an 18% pay rise over the next three years, and want current staffing levels to remain as they are.
The Victorian state government has rejected these demands. They have imposed a 2.5% ceiling on annual pay rises, and intend on slashing health funding by over $100 million. They want to reduce the amount of registered nurses, and reduce staff to patient ratios.
The Australian Nurses Federation has apparently done ‘everything possible’ to prevent rank and file nurses fighting the assault on health care, but it would now appear that the bureaucrats can no longer contain workers anger.
The Fair Work Australia scheme punishes virtually all industrial action by workers, yet allows employers to ‘fuck over’ workers whenever they deem it necessary.
Late last year, over 4,000 nurses held a mass meeting and voted unanimously to ignore previous bans, but that decision was immediately overturned in a typical act of betrayal by the Australian Nurses Federation.
“In an attempt to deflect attention from this betrayal, the ANF held “community rallies” outside the offices of state Liberal MPs and organised other publicity stunts. The union called on nurses to write resignation letters, which it claimed could be used to “pressure” the government.
“These “tactics” were designed to politically confuse and demoralise. As numerous nurses pointed out on social networking sites, any resignations would be welcomed by the state government and the vacancies filled with low-paid nursing assistants.”
This week’s mass meeting was the first since the FWA banned the nurses’ industrial action last November. Nurses again indicated their willingness to challenge the government’s attacks. Once more the union sought to disorient nurses. ANF secretary Fitzpatrick told the meeting that the rolling stoppages would expose what the state government’s elimination of patient-nurse ratios would produce.
The union issued an unprecedented invitation for federal Workplace Relations Minister Bill Shorten to address the meeting, falsely presenting him as a supporter of the nurses. As a former national secretary of the Australian Workers Union, Shorten has a long record of enforcing employers’ cost-cutting and productivity demands.”
Bill Shorten’s involvement in the dispute is a calculated move to assist the Australian Nurses Federation leadership to dampen the militancy of rank and file nurses, and to assist the government in pushing through the state governments austerity programme.
Nurses in the state are realising that they cannot win the dispute unless they organise outside of the Australian Nurses Federation, as they have a long and proven track record of supporting the bosses at the expense of their members.
The following are quotes from some of the nurses involved:
“In 1986 [during the Victorian nurses’ strike] I stood out the front of the Royal Melbourne Hospital,” an older nurse said. “I can’t believe we’re here doing it again. It shouldn’t have to happen. What I remember about 1986 is fighting for my patients and I’m very emotional about this.”
Another nurse, who had worked for over 40 years in the health industry, said: “What we face is appalling. We need a government that leads well. Whether internationally or in Australia, there is no political party which can form a government everybody can be confident about. They can’t run the country. Money drives everything. They don’t want to pay the nurses; they want the cheapest possible workers.”
“This drive by the government to bring in unlicensed, unregistered workers is appalling. They can’t treat patients, based on training for three months! Patient care is far more complex now. The government wants qualified nurses? Yes, but they’re not prepared to pay the money.”
A government spokesman has called on nurses to abide by the legal ruling and not go on strike. He has accused nurses of using patients as ‘pawns’, and says that they should respect the ruling that has been made by an independent body (i.e, government committee) and live within the law of the land.
Since nurses voiced their intent to defy the ban, strikes have spread across several hospitals in Melbourne over the weekend, with many more walkouts expected over the coming week.
Updates as I find them.