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Brumby uses Work Choices against Vic Nurses

from Sue Bolton
In an outrageous development, Victorian ALP premier John Brumby is using Work Choices against nurses who have implemented industrial bans. There will need to be solidarity for the nurses in the coming days.

Stand-off deepens as nurses lose pay

Christian Catalano and David Rood
October 18, 2007
The Age

AT LEAST 150 Victorians have already had their surgery cancelled and more than 250 public hospital beds have been closed, as nurses' hardline industrial action enters its second day.

Negotiations between the Brumby Government and the nurses' union appeared to deteriorate further yesterday, with thousands of nurses told they would be docked at least four hours' pay for every day they took part in the action.

The state's 28,000 nurses also found unlikely support from the Howard Government, which berated Premier John Brumby for failing to "do the right thing" by his employees.

The Australian Nurses Federation said it was disgusted that a state Labor government would use WorkChoices to intimidate its underpaid and overworked members.

"Nurses may be closing beds and theatre sessions (but) they are not withdrawing their labor and emergency patients and urgent patients are all being cared for," ANF state secretary Lisa Fitzpatrick said.

"Now the (Victorian) Government is saying that not one of those nurses will be paid. It seems to me they are acting quite hypocritically and the nurses won't forget that at a federal ballot."

Victorian Health Minister Daniel Andrews said hospitals had no choice but to implement WorkChoices sanctions because the industrial action was unlawful.

"Hospitals don't get to choose which bits of the federal law they like. If unlawful action takes place in their health service, then there is no choice but to dock the pay of nurses," he said. "If you want to change WorkChoices, vote Kevin Rudd on the 24th of November."

But federal Workplace Relations Minister Joe Hockey said Mr Brumby "must take responsibility, stop blaming others; he is the employer he must sort it out". The dispute "is a clear reminder of what life would be like under a Labor Government", he said.

State Opposition Leader Ted Baillieu said Victorian patients were suffering because of Mr Brumby's confrontational leadership style.

He said patients effected by the nurses' work bans had the right to be "P'd off" and raised the possibility of nurses seeking work interstate.

Mr Baillieu called on Mr Brumby to sit down with nurses and negotiate a settlement to the pay dispute.

Meanwhile, the State Government forged ahead with plans to have an independent umpire sort out the dispute at a hearing in the Industrial Relations Commission last night.

The Victorian Hospitals Industry Association will continue its application today to have the nurses' bargaining period terminated.

That action will force the parties into a compulsory 21-day conciliation period, after which the commission itself will have the power to decide on a fair outcome on wages and work conditions for the nurses.

Ms Fitzpatrick said the application was a ploy to enforce a workplace determination from the commission, which makes it much more difficult for nurses to get their desired 6 per cent wage rise over three years. The Government is offering 3.25 per cent over five years.


Nurses will escalate action if hospital CEOs don't stop threatening nurses with WorkChoices

17 October 2007, 2:44pm

ANF has called on the Victorian Premier to stop inflaming the current dispute by bullying and intimidating nurses in hospitals and to start seriously negotiating with the nurses' union to resolve the dispute about wages and workloads.

Australian Nursing Federation (Victorian Branch) Secretary Lisa Fitzpatrick said: "ANF has learned that the Department of Human Services has issued a directive to hospital chief executive officers to hold scripted one-on-one interviews with individual nurses to determine their participation in the industrial action so that they can apply the full force of the WorkChoices laws against them. Nurses are also being called at home by managers pressuring them not to participate and telling them that they won't be paid.

"If nurses are not paid during this dispute we will be starting a community fund so that nurses who have children to feed and bills to pay do not suffer while they are fighting to get the Brumby Government to improve nurse patient ratios and staff hospitals properly," she said.

"I have never seen this kind of bullying and bullying will only inflame the dispute and will result in ANF holding hospital-wide meetings at the front of the hospitals which are carrying out this harassment. If ANF finds that nurses are being intimidated across the state then we'll hold another statewide meeting and escalate the action statewide. Attacking nurses will not resolve this dispute," she said.

"Nurses may be closing beds and theatre sessions but they're still working hard in operating theatres and they're still caring for patients in the emergency departments and the wards. I must emphasise that nurses will not risk the health and safety of any member of the public and that there are additional nurses assisting in emergency departments during this difficult time.

"Nurses recognise the hypocrisy of the Brumby Government which spoke out against WorkChoices and is now waving these bad laws in nurses' faces.

"The Victorian Government's long-held policy is that nurses are paid if they don't withdraw their labour - nurses are not withdrawing their labour and in fact they are working even harder.

"Perhaps Kevin Rudd and his team might want to make a few phone calls to their Victorian counterparts and get them to stick to the policy.

"I would like to thank the members of the public who have flooded ANF with emails and calls supporting the nurses and expressing their shock at the tactics being used against nurses by a Government that supposedly is opposed to WorkChoices," Ms Fitzpatrick said.

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