The Guardian 1 June, 2005

Howard hits nurses

Nurses will lose nearly 40 entitlements, including the right to "reasonable workloads", under dramatic changes flagged by Prime Minister John Howard.

Their "reasonable workloads" clause, won by a three-year campaign, has been credited with starting to turn around shortages that had pitched the public health system into crisis.

Anne O’Connor, a registered nurse at St George Hospital in Sydney, warned federal government moves to take over state industrial relations systems and strip awards back to 16 allowable matters would seriously disadvantage colleagues and impact on the public.

"Nursing is a high-pressure job but our award has got better all the time to reflect that", she said.

"Our (state) award provides all our conditions. To lose our conditions would be frightening and it would mean losing nurses. The conditions we have won are very much worth fighting for."

Ms O’Connor specified a range of entitlements, besides "reasonable workloads" that appeared to be on the line.

She pointed out that Howard’s slimmed-down awards made no provisions for existing entitlements to uniform allowance, leave, overtime or parental leave.

NSW Nurses Association president, Coral Levett, said nurses faced losing more than 30 award clauses if Howard got his way.

She described their reasonable workloads breakthrough as crucial to nursing’s future. "We know many nurses have returned to the workforce because of that clause", Ms Levett said. "To lose it, would mean nurses exiting again.

"It has taken nurses many years to improve our award. We have more than 50 clauses, setting out our wages and conditions. To strip them back to 16 would destroy the Nurses’ Award."

Ms Levett pledged nurses would be on the resistance’s frontline. "We will continue to fight for the Nurses’ Award. Basically, we will fight every inch of the way", she said.

Back to index page