Victorian government bullies nurses

November 10, 2011

It was “shameful” of the Victorian Liberal government, the Victorian Hospitals Industrial Association (VHIA) and the state's hospitals to consider locking out nurses or using a strikebreaking workforce to end the enterprise bargaining campaign of public sector nurses, Australian Nursing Federation (ANF) state secretary Lisa Fitzpatrick said on November 9.

“The Baillieu Government's strategy to frustrate enterprise negotiations, forcing Victorian nurses and midwives to take industrial action so they can lock them out of the public health system to trigger arbitration is shameful,” she said.

“Never before in either this state's history or in fact the nation's history has a government plotted such malicious, bullying action to achieve its aim of slashing 1758 nursing and midwifery positions out of the public health system by 2016.”

Nurses, midwives and mental health nurses have sought a 3.5% wage rise a year for four years, as well as superannuation and overtime improvements and maintaining patient-to-nurse ratios. The Baillieu government would cut nurse-to-patient ratios and close 800 beds across the state, the union said.

ANF members voted to take protected industrial action, including small-scale work bans and wearing T-shirts and badges promoting the campaign to work.

But the Age revealed on November 9 that employer representative VHIA had sent detailed advice to hospital management around the state about how to use similar tactics to Qantas CEO Alan Joyce to shut down industrial action.

It said employers should be photographing nurses and midwives who are taking part in industrial action and taking down their number plates.

Fitzpatrick told 3AW radio is also “provides employers with draft template letters that they can provide to nurses if they choose to stand them down, lock them out, dock their pay, discipline them.”

Fitzpatrick said: “This 51-page document demonstrates how disconnected the Baillieu Government is from its nursing and midwifery workforce. It's not an ‘options document' as described by [VHIA chief] Alec Djoneff, it's a 'how to document'.

“Nurses and midwives will not buckle to the Baillieu Government's threatening actions.”

“If the Baillieu Government spent as much energy negotiating as they have plotting, we would more than likely have reached agreement by now," she said.

“Nurses and midwives will continue to fight for a safer public health system in Victoria which will be achieved by improving our current nurse/midwife patient ratios.”

The union had applied to go to Fair Work Australia for conciliation; the hearing began on November 9.

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