The 10,000 nurses and midwives involved in industrial action across Western Australia have been threatened with disciplinary action and deregistration by the state’s director general if they go ahead with a planned 24-hour strike on February 25.
The industrial dispute, which for the first time in 12 years has seen the closure of beds across the state’s public hospitals, is set to intensify in the coming week as the state government continues to ignore nurses’ demands on wages and conditions.
The Barnett Liberal government has claimed that it cannot negotiate with the nurses’ union while acting as a “caretaker” government ahead of the March 9 state election. Australian Nursing Federation (ANF) state secretary Mark Olson has challenged the premier’s claim, accusing the state government of refusing to meet with the union for months, and promising to make nurses pay a key battle ground for the upcoming state election.
Despite Western Australia being the most expensive state to live in, wages for nurses have fallen to now stand sixth behind most of Australia’s states and territories. To alleviate this margin, the ANF is demanding a 20% pay increase over the next three years.
The Liberal government has previously set a limit on pay increases to 3% a year, which Olson says will not even keep up with the rate of inflation, and will consequently mean a further cut in nurses’ wages. Other issues relating to working conditions and charging nurses for staff parking are other important points of dispute.
In face of the ongoing unwillingness of the Liberal government to act on this issue, the ANF is calling on all its members to stand up against the increasing efforts by the director general’s office to intimidate the union, and send a strong message through the strike that the nurses will not allow this issue to stand idle, but rather the campaign will continue to grow until a decent wage is won.
For more details visit the campaign page on Facebook.