Nurses head to arbitration



BRISBANE — Queensland nurses were threatened with disciplinary action only hours after industrial bans were lifted, according to the Queensland Nurses Union (QNU). The bans were lifted following a July 24 arbitration commission decision to end the nurses' official bargaining period.

Australian Industrial Relations Commissioner Ken Bacon granted the state Labor government's application to end eight weeks of informal mediation on the grounds that there was "no reasonable prospect of the negotiating parties reaching an agreement". The long-running dispute is now headed for arbitration before the full bench of the AIRC.

While state industrial relations minister Gordon Nuttall said he expected all beds to be re-opened, the QNU said that was unlikely given the continuing heavy workloads and shortage of nurses.

"We are not going to let our members be exploited with the lifting of industrial action", QNU industrial officer Mark Dougherty said. "If there is trouble with workloads on the ground this will have to be addressed. We expected [Queensland Health] would take a heavy hand and we won't tolerate it.

"Already we have had calls from nurses saying they have been threatened with disciplinary action because they were wearing T-shirts, which they have been wearing as part of their campaign."

Despite the lifting of the nurses' bans, there is expected to be little change in the delays to elective surgery in public hospitals as visiting specialist doctors have announced they will continue their industrial action, and would treat only emergency cases, until they get public liability insurance guarantees from the state government.

From Green Left Weekly, July 31, 2002.
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