Our strike and rally actions for shift-by-shift ratios are on pause during the COVID-19 lockdown, but when it is safe we will step it up again.
We are eighteen months into the worst public health emergency the world has seen in a century and everyone from experts to politicians are learning new facts and dealing with the unknown.
Mistakes are being made at all levels. A major mistake has been the vaccination of the aged care workforce.
The Commonwealth Government has failed aged care again. As usual its response to its failures has been to blame the workers. The leap to compulsory vaccination to fix their failure is unforgivable.
Our State Government and Ministry of Health have tried to step in and help by offering priority access in their vaccination hubs. This is welcome but clearly not enough.
I welcome that in a rare show of unity aged care employers and unions have jointly determined the necessary solutions and presented them to the Federal Health Minister with some success. The challenge now is to address the access to all vaccines as well as the communication failures around the Astra Zeneca vaccine.
There is no current NSW Public Health Order that confirms the announcement that COVID-19 vaccination will be compulsory for aged care workers. We will inform our members when that occurs. It will not be unprecedented as we already have compulsory vaccination for flu and other illnesses. It will cause much concern for those who are hesitant or those who intend to refuse. I have warned the MOH of the consequences of such an order on the workforce.
My preference would be that our members are allowed to make an informed decision based on best evidence available and take into consideration their duties to the patients and residents in their care to do no harm.
We’re fighting for a safer public health system
In the NSW Public Health System it is only thanks to strong campaigning and advocacy by our members that there is adequate access to P2/N95 respirators and fit testing.
Of course, the critical issue to be addressed to ensure the safety of patients and staff in our public health system is shift-by-shift ratios.
In the month leading up to the lockdown our members made their feelings well known with a wave of strikes throughout the state.
Our pressure has forced the government to backtrack on their previous position on pay and they will pay a 2.04 per cent increase to Public Health System members.
This is not nearly enough to appease nurses and midwives operating under the most challenging circumstances in what is an increasingly dangerous situation.
We will not stop advocating for shift-by-shift ratios until they are law.
A pillar of our union retires
I am deeply saddened to say goodbye to our Assistant General Secretary Judith Kiejda. A formidable nurse, midwife and trailblazing unionist, Judith has brought courage, passion, persistence and enthusiasm to her senior leadership role for 19 years.
Judith’s achievements are too numerous to mention but here are some:
- Her advocacy to create the NursePower fund gave us the resources to run large-scale advertising campaigns in tandem with well resourced workplace campaigns
- NursePower was used to to fight off WorkChoices, to push for ratios, to defend Medicare, to stop privatisations of our public rural hospitals and to improve aged care
- She has positioned the NSWNMA as a significant contributor to international nursing through her involvement in Public Services International and Global Nurses United
She was a long time member of the ACTU Executive, ACTU Junior Vice President from 2013 and President of Unions NSW.
Judith has played a critical role in helping to deliver outcomes for our members across all sectors. She has been a great union leader.
With Judith retiring I would like to welcome Shaye Candish to the leadership team as the new Assistant General Secretary.
I look forward to working with Shaye as we go forward to meet the formidable challenges in front of us.