Victorian health dispute still simmering

July 2, 1997

Victorian health dispute still simmering

By Jo Obronschka

MELBOURNE — Victorian public sector nurses voted to end industrial bans, in place since June 12, at a stop-work meeting on June 23. The industrial action forced the state government to negotiate with the Australian Nursing Federation over worsening work conditions and poor pay.

In the first stage of the negotiations, the ANF will discuss pay and work conditions with each hospital network. The government will take part in negotiations at a later stage, before the parties meet again in the Industrial Relations Commission.

The ANF says it will not institute industrial bans for five weeks unless the process breaks down or the government fails to talk.

Nurses are seeking an overdue pay rise of 15% and guarantees of improved work and patient care conditions, which have hit rock bottom in some Victorian hospitals.

The Health Services Union of Australia (Vic. No. 1 branch) — which covers caterers, cleaners, orderlies and other support staff — took industrial action at the same time as the nurses to protest against privatisation of services provided by support staff.

HSUA members demanded that support service staff in public sector hospitals remain covered by the HSUA award and not the building services industry award.

Conditions such as pay and sick leave are substantially higher under the HSUA award. The Inner and Eastern Hospitals Network agreed, in writing, that the HSUA award remain.

HSUA industrial information officer Peter Ellison told Green Left Weekly that this is "a very, very big win. Now, if any services are contracted out, the workers have to be paid at the higher rate set out in the HSUA award and given the better conditions."

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