WA hospital workers meet

Wednesday, November 20, 1991

WA hospital workers meet

By Rodney Cheuk

PERTH — Frustration with award restructuring and long delays in reaching a wage agreement were evident at a stop-work meeting of 1500 hospital workers here on November 14. The workers, members of the miscellaneous workers' union (FMWU), also held stop-works in Broome, Geraldton and Bunbury.

Several speakers called for disaffiliation from the ALP, reflecting widespread anger with state government stalling on a wage agreement under Accord Mark VI. Workers also expressed concern about budget cuts and voluntary redundancy packages. "We'll always be a weak union as long as we're in bed with the ALP", cried one worker.

Following FMWU state secretary Helen Creed's reports on the budget cuts and voluntary redundancies, a string of speakers from the floor attacked the ALP's abandonment of social justice issues and its cutbacks to the public health system. There was also a call for a mass rally against the state government's austerity measures, and for a coordinated cross-union campaign.

Acting assistant secretary Gary Gleeson responded to these sentiments with a red-baiting attack on leaflets distributed before the meeting, one by the Democratic Socialist Party and another by the Communist Party of Australia (Marxist-Leninist).

But the officials' difficulties were not due to left-wing leaflets; they were a result of deep frustration with the results of a "consensus" approach to industrial relations, strictly constrained by "consultative mechanisms", which mainly serve the employers' ends of dragging out discussions and blurring issues.

Many health workers regard "consultative mechanisms" as a cynical joke used by management to avoid delivering commitments made by the state government as a result of political pressure from the ALP's constituency in the context of an 11.6% unemployment rate.

The meeting gave the government two weeks to respond to its demands, and a union report back to members is due on November 29.

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