The Australian Nursing Federation (ANF) has welcomed a review of the Fair Work Act (FWA), announced earlier this week by Federal Workplace Relations Minister Bill Shorten.
ANF Federal Secretary Lee Thomas said she was hopeful the review would result in important submissions which would outline ways to achieve much-needed improvements in the daily working conditions of Australia’s nursing and midwifery workforce.
“Recently, we’ve seen the nursing profession become the target of increasing attacks by various state governments across the country, particularly in Victoria, Tasmania, South Australia and NSW,” Ms Thomas said.
“That’s why Minister Shorten’s review of the FWA is a welcome initiative and will provide the ANF with the opportunity to explain how the operations of the FWA and its associated legislation can improve the rights of nurses, midwives and assistants in nursing.”
Ms Thomas said it was crucial that the FWA ensure collective bargaining is strengthened to protect the nursing and midwifery workforce against insecure employment.
“Like other public sector workers, nurses, midwives and assistants in nursing should have better rights to enable them to bargain with employers, particularly for secure working arrangements,” she explained.
“Specifically, the current regulations relating to workers’ rights for industrial action need to be amended. For example, in Victoria, the suspension and termination of protected industrial [action] has placed nurses and midwives at the mercy of employers.
“The FWA must also be given additional scope to arbitrate in industrial disputes because this current system of last resort arbitration is simply not working. In addition, there has to be an opportunity to amend modern awards on their merits.”
Ms Thomas said the ANF, on behalf of its growing membership, supported the Minister’s comment that the review provided parties with the opportunity for “evidence based discussion” about the Fair Work Act.
“As a major stakeholder in the health, aged care and industrial and professional arenas, the ANF looks forward to the opportunity of providing a submission to the review,” she said.
“We believe recent attacks on the working conditions of the nursing and midwifery workforce clearly demonstrates how the operation of the legislation can be improved.”
The ANF, with over 214,000 members, is the professional and industrial voice for nurses, midwives and assistants in nursing in Australia.