The Guardian July 17, 2002


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.

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