IR laws swing in favour of management as Victorian nurses defy federal orders

by 01 Mar 2012

Unprecedented nurse walkouts in Victoria have coincided with an announcement by the New South Wales government that fines for defying orders from the Industrial Relations Commission will increase from $10,000 to $100,000 for the first day of an offence.

Victorian nurses yesterday defied an order from both the Federal court and Australian Nurses Union to end their industrial action, instead walking out of hospitals throughout the state. The move followed a similar breach to an order issued by Fair Work Australia (FWA) last week. The Victorian Hospitals Industrial Association is now likely to take further court action against the nurses.

The government put a 2.5% pay rise on the table, plus productivity gains including altering nurse-to-patient ratios by employing additional health assistants to share some of the work normally done by nurses.

Hospital HR teams have grown tired of the long-running dispute, and are recording the names of nurses who participate in the stoppages so their pay can be docked later. With no end in sight, the nurses continue to seek pay rises of up to 18.5% to be rolled out over the three years and eight months, and have refused to change the ratios.

Meanwhile in NSW, Premier Barry O’Farrell has unveiled an IR shake-up which he says will bring the penalties for unprotected work stoppages in line with fines in Queensland. O'Farrell told the NSW Parliament he wants to give the state's industrial relations laws “more teeth”. “We are not going to stand by and allow unions to call wildcat strikes in defiance of the Industrial Commission and create havoc and turmoil for commuters, taxpayers and other people across this state,” he said.


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