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No choice for Victorian public sector nurses under WorkChoices

Australian Nursing Federation(Victoria)

The Australian Industrial Relations Commission today declined to grant an application by the Australian Nursing Federation (Victorian Branch) to conduct a secret ballot of Victoria's almost 30,000 public sector nurses.

The secret ballot application, for public acute and aged care nurses employed across 143 employers and public mental health nurses across 22 employers, could have authorised protected industrial action by nurses across the state.

Currently these nurses are covered by one of two single agreements covering multiple employers that expired on 30 September 2007.

Australian Nursing Federation (Victorian Branch) Secretary Lisa Fitzpatrick said: "This comes as no surprise to me or to Victoria's nurses, as WorkChoices outlaws protected industrial action being taken in support of a single agreement covering more than one employer when you are pattern bargaining, and makes it all but impossible to pursue common wages and conditions for nurses, even though they do the same work in each hospital.

"I can assure the Victorian public that our nurses won't deviate from this campaign, despite the removal of access to protected industrial action. Victorian nurses have made it clear to me that the pressure on them is so great, that if they are to provide safe and quality care to the Victorian community workloads and salaries must be addressed properly.

"Nurses will leave the system in droves if they are not and Premier Brumby's current wage offer and refusal to maintain and improve nurse patient ratios will only make things worse," she said.

"Nurses will proceed with a Statewide Stop Work meeting on 16 October 2007 and I expect that if a significantly revised offer is not provided by the Brumby Government before that meeting, sadly nurses will have no choice but to proceed with their campaign.

"Nurses are not strangers to taking unprotected industrial action, having had to resort to this to protect patients in 1997, 2000 and 2001. I know that metropolitan nurses will not sit idly by and have their regional colleagues paid less and working under worse terms and conditions, and why should they?

"I have been overwhelmed by the support of the Victorian community for the nurses, and I know that with that support nurses will be able to protect and improve conditions and staffing into the future," Ms Fitzpatrick said.

The outcome of the application does not affect the separate application being made for nurses employed by the Royal District Nursing Service. Australian Red Cross Blood Service nurses will hold a members meeting this afternoon to determine their response to management's offer.


Contact details

Robyn Asbury
Media and PR Officer
Mobile: 0417 523 252

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