Queensland health workers fight on
More than 3000 angry nurses rallied outside Queensland Parliament last week in their campaign for a decent pay rise and better conditions. Queensland's 17,000 nurses will continue the fight this week for their wage increase of 18 percent over two years. The State's 32,000 non-nursing hospital staff will also hold a stopwork and rally outside Parliament this week as part of the wage campaign. In addition, action across the board is brewing in the state public sector as the Beattie Government moves to undermine the public sector enterprise bargaining process. The pay claim is part of the nurses' campaign, Nurses: Worth Looking After, which includes: * improving nurses' wages; * ensuring workloads are safe for both patients and staff; * ensuring nurse education programs are appropriate and affordable; * an improved and safer workplace environment; * the implementation of workforce planning strategies that address the needs of a predominately female and shift-working workforce. Busloads of nurses from around the State converged on Parliament on Friday, July 12 for the rally, which coincided with a Health Estimates Committee meeting in the House. Speaking at Friday's rally, the General Secretary of the Queensland Council of Unions, Grace Grace, said hospital workers were frustrated with the lack of movement on their negotiations. "We are serious about the claim and will not accept the Government's `take- it-or-leave-it' attitude. The union movement is 100 percent behind you." Nearly all workbans by the Queensland Nurses Union (QNU) at public hospitals and community healthcare facilities throughout the State remain in place. Queensland Health's wage offer reflects the Government's plan to maintain a three percent pay rise in all public sector enterprise agreements. Some of the items Queensland Health is still refusing to negotiate on include: study leave; in-charge-of-shift allowance; work on public holidays; night shift entitlements; breaks between shifts; rural and remote entitlements; maternity leave improvement; defined reasonable overtime levels. Queensland Health expects nurses to trade off: allowances in lieu of penalties for employees in remote locations; job security; uniform allowance and laundry allowance; remote area incentive package and also matters connected with employment practices and contracting out. Workers from the ten unions covering cleaners, pathologists, laundry workers, administration staff and other non-nursing health workers will gather outside Parliament on Thursday. The Australian Services Union (ASU), one of the unions representing non- nursing staff, condemned the Government's intransigence and its attack on health workers. "The ASU has joined with other unions in condemning the Queensland Government's failure to consult with unions [on enterprise bargaining] and failure to bargain in an appropriate manner", said the union's State Secretary, Julie Bignell. "The current state of negotiations in Queensland Health has arisen because the Government has acted appallingly, not for any systemic reason. The Premier should bring a fair offer to the table and negotiate around it instead of issuing ultimatums." The unions have called on the State's Industrial Relations Minister Gordon Nuttall to apologise for comparing unions to "a dog chasing its tail". Trainees used to break bans The Government has stooped as low as using federally-funded trainees to break union bans. At the Nambour Hospital on the Gold Coast, around 14 trainees with 100 percent subsidised wages have been brought into Nambour Hospital to carry out work that unions have placed bans on. They are subsidised under the federal Intensive Assistance Program. Enterprise bargaining Queensland teachers have backed a boycott of Premier Beattie's "cynical review" of the public sector bargaining process. The Queensland Teachers' Union (QTU) described the review as a "brazen attempt to stop workers campaigning for improved resourcing of essential public services" . QTU President Julie-Ann McCullough said the flawed review further compounded the Beattie Government's incompetent handling of enterprise bargaining negotiations. Her comments followed a decision by the Queensland Council of Unions and public sector unions not to co-operate with the review. "Mr Beattie won't get away with this attempt to remove our right to campaign for fair funding and resources for schools", said Ms McCullough. "The Premier's not interested in getting a better system — he just wants to impose a narrow, pre-determined and inadequate outcome on Queensland workers." The ASU's Julie Bignell said the Government had initiated the review without any consultation with unions." We will not participate in this review", she said.