After eight months of campaigning by Victoria’s nurses to keep staff-to-patient ratios and win a wage rise there may be a breakthrough in the dispute.
On March 7, the Ted Baillieu Coalition state government finally offered to begin new negotiations with the Australian Nursing Federation (ANF) though a conciliation process overseen by Fair Work Australia.
The agreement to talk meant that all industrial action by the ANF ceased. The government and the Victorian Hospitals’ Industrial Association (VHIA) also agreed to end their legal action against nurses in the federal court. Both sides have committed to resolve all outstanding issues by March 16.
The March 8 Age reported that ANF Victorian Branch secretary Lisa Fitzpatrick said: “We don’t have an outcome yet, but I am very confident that the next time we meet … that we will come armed with an agreement that protects our patients, protects you and delivers good things for the nurses of Victoria.”
The breakthrough followed a highly publicised and extremely embarrassing incident for the Baillieu family. The premier's second cousin, Marshall, a former federal member of parliament, was caught on camera repeatedly making insulting finger gestures to protesting nurses.
Nurses in all public hospitals have walked out of work twice a day for the past two weeks. They have had the support of other unions and most of the Victorian public. Many observers feel that the more likely reason for the government’s sudden change of heart has been the impact of months of united, statewide political and industrial activity by nurses.
Ballarat nurses rally. Photos by Ali Bakhtiavandi