The rank and file “Clean Sweep” ticket won all contested positions of the Victorian Health Services Union (HSU) No 3 branch in elections held on November 26.
The HSU's No 3 branch covers 36 professions; from physiotherapists, radiographers, anesthetic technicians to occupational therapists, social workers, and medical illustrators. The No 3 branch is the smallest of the three HSU branches with a membership of about 3500.
Leadership elections have also been held at the New South Wales HSU branch but have been delayed at the Victorian No 1 branch. The elections come in the wake of allegations that high-ranking HSU officials and ALP members were involved in nepotism and misappropriation of member’s funds.
The union was put into administration in June 2012 following a Fair Work Australia investigation which found serious breaches of the union’s rules and federal regulations governing registered organisations.
The last contested election for No 3 branch was in 1987. In the past, calls for nominations for HSU elections were publicised only through one-day advertisements in the national newspapers, which meant that usually only the incumbents were aware of elections.
Clean Sweep ran against the incumbent Fleur Behrens team, a ticket closely associated with the discredited national HSU secretary Kathy Jackson and her leadership team.
Craig McGregor, newly elected secretary of the HSU No 3 branch, told Green Left Weekly that he was very inspired by the serious interest members were taking in their union, which was demonstrated by the 60% voter turnout, a higher than usual figure.
“We knew that a large turnout was crucial for our chances," McGregor said. "Those members sitting outside the direct spheres of influence had to be engaged and had to vote. Our message is sound and we are driven entirely by a genuine desire to revive our union. If we could get that message out there we knew we were in with a real chance."
McGregor claims the Clean Sweep victory was no “mean feat” in the context of having to fight against a “well-entrenched team, with developed professional networks, resources and notoriety. “We feel that a 55% to 45% victory, in all positions, is a strong one and demonstrates very significant support in the workplace,” he said.
“Our members are a smart bunch of people. They know honesty when they see it. We are not careerists, we are a group of healthcare professionals who want a union we can be proud of and we are determined to make that happen.”
He told GLW that the key focus was on members’ concerns, which had been neglected by the previous leadership. Other key campaigning issues taken up were transparency, good governance and political independence. Health professional salary increases had been falling behind teachers, nurses and other public servants by nearly 12%, a key industrial issue the Clean Sweep has committed itself to addressing.
“Clean Sweep’s policies were developed through an intensive consultation process with the union’s branch membership. We deliberately avoided platitudes, clichés and other such nonsense. A healthy union is an open union and we, the Clean Sweep team, knew that we had start in the way we planned to continue: openly, honestly, democratically. We are also committed to having robust debate and sacrificing the personal for the sake of the political. This is crucial in a well functioning union.”
The Clean sweep team is aware of the many challenges and hard work ahead. McGregor said meaningful and regular communication with members was key to making the union work for its members again.
“There is so much that needs to be done and in a very short space of time. We need to getmembers back on board, we need to implement the gamut of governance policies, we need to look to a range of ongoing industrial issues and also to the Better Structures/Better Care campaign. We need to win the trust of members by delivering real results and quickly”.
For more information on Clean Sweep, visit the website.