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Issue #1529      30 November 2011

ANF lifts action, calls for genuine negotiations

The Victorian branch of the Australian Nursing Federation (ANF) has agreed to comply with Fair Work Australia’s orders and has called on Premier Ted Baillieu to direct the negotiators representing his government to return to the table to negotiate an outcome that respects all parties.

ANF secretary Lisa Fitzpatrick.

ANF secretary Lisa Fitzpatrick said: “The ANF will comply with the orders so that the Baillieu government can no longer avoid negotiating with us by hiding behind the cloak of its legal team. It is time for the legal sideshow to stop and for the government and employers to pour the same efforts as the ANF into negotiating an outcome that will fix this dispute.

“There are no more obstacles to negotiating an outcome. I am available 24/7 over the next five days to negotiate an agreement that I can take back to members at a statewide meeting scheduled for Wednesday November 30 at Festival Hall . The government must demonstrate that it is genuine in its desire to reach an agreement quickly,” Ms Fitzpatrick said.

The ANF has remained at the negotiating table at all times, but the government’s representatives have been distracted by the legal proceedings. The union says it will agree to lift the bans to provide a full opportunity to hold constructive and serious negotiations.

Victorian nurses and midwives distrust the Baillieu government, she said, and that negotiating an acceptable outcome quickly is the first important step in winning back their trust.

“Mr Baillieu must direct the negotiators representing his government to negotiate an outcome that represents what he said in Parliament yesterday and that fulfils his October 15, 2010 election promise to maintain nurse patient ratios,” she said.

Thousands of Victorian nurses, midwives and community members rallied last Thursday in front of Parliament House to voice their support for the campaign to retain and expand nurse to patient ratios. The support from the community was overwhelming and a great lift in spirits.

The ANF remains focussed on settling the dispute and taking all possible steps to avoid any escalation in action.

The union offered Premier Baillieu a compromise arbitration that could resolve the dispute and end industrial action immediately.

“We are calling on Mr Baillieu, who ultimately has responsibility for the health system, to seriously consider accepting this offer and this dispute and any action taking place could end today if the process was agreed,” Ms Fitzpatrick said.

A compromise arbitration is different to both types of arbitration already proposed by the ANF and the Victorian Hospitals’ Industrial Association.

The ANF has previously sought consent arbitration. VHIA continues to seek formal arbitration.

This new arbitration proposal would not arise out of the current Section 240 conciliation proceedings that the parties have been negotiating under since November 9.

“This type of arbitration is consistent with the purpose of the Act and how it deals with disputes, and would allow an independent umpire from Fair Work Australia, who has not been involved in any of the multitude of proceedings, to provide a fresh perspective and help the parties get around the impasse,” Ms Fitzpatrick said.

“The process would have to happen quickly and its outcome would be binding on all the parties and I can give a commitment that ANF members would abide by the outcome of the compromise arbitration.

“The ANF and its members have a long history of abiding by EBA outcomes overseen by the Australian Industrial Relations Commission and we will do the same under Fair Work Australia,” she said.  

Next article – Baiada Poultry workers settle new agreement

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