Our collective spirit has delivered results
We achieve change by working together, says NSWNMA Assistant Secretary, Michael Whaites.
The resolve of members and their willingness to take action over the last 12 months has made us a stronger union, Michael Whaites told Annual Conference.
“During last year’s Annual Conference, delegates endorsed the ongoing fight to win ratios and improved pay and conditions for public sector members. We continued our strike action, with our third and fourth statewide strikes occurring in September and November,” he said.
“These strikes not only saw thousands take action, but they were also a continuation of this union going from one that hadn’t taken action in 10 years, to holding four such strikes within one year.
“When members are united in their resolve to take action, we strike. That’s a fundamental foundation for any union, and one we have clearly rebuilt. We can now rely on this strength when it is right to do so.
“Those strikes built on our already strong public support, complemented by our media campaign. Where other unions’ continued strike action sees public support ebb and flow, ours only got stronger. Why? Because the work you do is respected by the public, it is relied upon by the public, and because our union brand is trusted by the public.”
This increased strength will be needed, he said, “in our pursuit for ratios, in the pursuit of higher wages and improved conditions, the fight for action on climate change and affordable housing, and the fight for our professions”.
“A year on, we have stronger foundations on which we can build.”
The fight for better pay continues
Michael said the union is committed to a fight that will return public sector nurses and midwives to being the highest paid in the country.
“The 4 per cent provided by Labor was disappointing. We do not see that as the conclusion of the fight for better pay. Far from it.
“We know the 4 per cent pay outcome for public sector members did not meet expectations; we hear the anger over this, and we welcome that the desire to fight remains. We are committed to that fight, but we only have the power to do so when a majority of members are willing, and when there is a reasonable expectation that taking action will deliver meaningful outcomes.”
Holding Labor and the Ministry to account
Michael says that since Labor won the March state election, the Association has been holding Labor and the Ministry of Health to account to ensure the implementation of its Safe Staffing policy.
“We welcomed the announcement of the taskforce that will oversee the implementation – for the first time, and after more than ten years of fighting – which will see ratios implemented in NSW.
“Last year we stood here in hope; this year will see them in your Award. The signing of the MOU confirms that.
“Not as widely as we want, and not across as many workplaces as is needed, but getting ratios into five areas represents a significant start – one we will not let go and one you should be proud of.”
Michael acknowledged that Labor has inherited a mess from the previous Coalition government.
“The previous government denied nurses and midwives were leaving the system in droves. They failed to fund 1100 nursing positions for more than 12 months, and they hid that between 2021 and 2022, 7678 nurses left NSW Health.
“After the first round of ratios are implemented, the union will be better placed to plan our longer-term ratios campaign goals,” he said.
“That campaign will need to be one that maintains dialogue with the ALP, but also holds them to account; one that allows them a path to deliver reform, but also ensures they do not take us for granted.”
A period of renewal
The NSWNMA Council’s breadth of voices gives depth to our collective decisions, says President O’Bray Smith.
In the last 12 months we have welcomed three new members to the NSWNMA Council, O’Bray said in her report to Annual Conference.
“All three new councillors have joined your council to provide valuable nursing and midwifery voices to the decisions made at the executive level.”
O’Bray pointed out how the council – composed of working nurses and midwives – contributes to the oversight and day-to-day management of the union.
“We have advocated for and helped develop a member survey to review member satisfaction.
“The council will continue to ensure resolutions are not just on paper, but are also part of our everyday practice in the Association.”
This, she said, includes practical changes, such as moving to hybrid vehicles, participating in ethical investments, and implementing rule changes to give a greater voice to our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander members, to name just a few.
“I want every member to know that the resolutions you pass at your branch meetings are key to help us steer the Association.
“We thank you for placing your trust in us to manage your Association. We relish the opportunity to oversee the implementation of our strategic plan, and to be able to represent you in a fair and altruistic manner.”