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Nurses protest « Previous | |Next »
November 24, 2011

Nurses are continuing to close beds and cancel elective surgery in Victoria and, this afternoon in Melbourne thousands of nurses dressed in red T-shirts marched through the city to rally outside Parliament house in their push for better pay and conditions.

In Changing nurses' working conditions risks an exodus Belinda Allen states that the Baillieu Government in Victoria is proposing to introduce low-skilled health care assistants in hospitals and "flexibility" into existing patient to nurse ratios to reduce labour costs.

Nurses.jpg Gary Sauer-Thompson, nurses rally, Melbourne, 2011

The nurses dispute is before Fair Work Australia, the industrial umpire, which has required the nurses to stop their industrial action.

Allen says:

What is.... of concern is that this increased push for flexibility appears to be driven by a cost-cutting rather than a quality health care agenda. It would be dangerous to assume that low-skilled health care assistants could adequately compensate for the likely exodus of nurses if ratios were to be removed. Nursing work is highly skilled (most registered nurses have a minimum of a bachelor qualification) and carries with it high levels of responsibility. It is likely the introduction of low-skilled health care assistants would reinforce the perception from the study that the nursing profession is being further devalued. It is worth noting that it takes more than 1000 hours to train a fully qualified nurse and about 80 hours to train a semi-skilled health care assistant.

Judging from the protest I experienced in Melbourne today the nurses feel they are undervalued and under-appreciated and would be better off leaving the profession.

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 8:34 PM | | Comments (1)


A couple of observations:

(1) "The industrial umpire" is an awful phrase which implicitly likens industrial disputes to some kind of game. We are used to games in which equally skilled sides of equally-sized players compete for a valueless prize just for the sake of playing and for the glory. Industrial relations isn't like that, and Australians, who had a long tradition of what was called "conciliation and arbitration" ought to know that better than anybody.

(2) If health care were fully privatised, Govts. would be much happier to spend money by way of subsidies because then their mates in the industry could slip them some of the boodle back under the table as payoffs. As it is, all the money spent on Govt.-provided health care is just seen as "lost" - it represents money that could be given to complicit mates (and thereby generate payoffs) if only it wasn't spent on bloody stupid hospitals and bloody stupid nurses who don't give anything back to the pollies.