Victorian public sector nurse/midwife ratios, ratio improvements and next year’s negotiations to improve the public sector wages and conditions in the 2024 EBA outcome are all at risk under a Guy Coalition government.
In a Sky News Australia interview on 13 November, Opposition Leader Matthew Guy said he would not talk about health system policy with nurses, midwives or personal care workers who are ANMF members.
Journalist Julia Bradley asked Mr Guy: ‘On policy making there have been a few times when the heads of say the nurses or the ambulance union have said that you haven’t consulted with them on your plans for the health system before making announcements. Why is that?’.
Mr Guy responded: ‘Why would I consult a union. The union movement is the trade union entity of the Australian Labor Party.
‘The unions think I should consult them, I mean they might ask Daniel Andrews does he consult with the Institute of Public Affairs when he goes to economic policy? Of course, he doesn’t,’ he said.
‘So why would I consult a union. The unions are, as you would expect, are the trade union organised element of the Australian Labor Party, they are paid up members of the Australian Labor Party,’ he said.
‘If they’re somehow, if the unions are upset that I don’t consult on policy, phooey for them, get used to it,’ Mr Guy said.
Neither the ANMF, nor its elected leadership, are affiliated nor ‘paid up’ members of the Australian Labor Party. Nor is the Victorian Ambulance Union or its elected leadership.
Why ANMF consultation is important
ANMF and its members have attended meetings and consultations – with a range of Victorian Government committees, ministers, advisors, taskforces and Premier Daniel Andrews – to develop and implement nuanced workforce solutions that don’t always make headlines.
It is how ANMF secured ratio legislation (the Safe Patient Care Act), two rounds of improved and new ratios, third-term ratio commitments, the rapid expansion of the nursing and midwifery student employment programs (RUSONs and RUSOMs), the postgraduate midwifery employment program, the hospital support surge allowance and its extension, the winter retention allowance, fast-tracked WorkCover claim acceptance for COVID positive nurses, midwives and carers, additional funding for the free Nursing and Midwifery Health Program Victoria, financial support for nursing and midwifery students and the election commitment of $5000 for current students, a $50 million workforce development fund, new employment pathways for nurse practitioners, and range of scholarships for clinical areas that need more nurses and midwives. (There are more, but this article is already going to be too long.)
‘Nurses, midwives and personal care workers, who are ANMF members, are the union that Mr Guy says he won’t talk to,’ said ANMF (Vic Branch) Secretary Lisa Fitzpatrick.
‘ANMF takes many members’ concerns and their proposed solutions to governments,’ she said
‘The Andrews Government has listened to Victorian nurses and midwives and that’s set our state apart from the rest of the country.
‘Victoria is the only state that had a per shift surge allowance during last spring and summer’s COVID wave,’ Ms Fitzpatrick said, ‘We successfully lobbied the Victorian Government for that payment.’
Three examples of how ANMF members changed health policies:
Maternal and child health nurses
In June 2021 ANMF Job Reps and HSRs (after speaking with members at their workplace) passed delegate resolution 9 at the Annual Delegates Conference. The resolution called on ANMF to lobby the Andrews Government to increase key ages and stages maternal and child health nurse consultation appointment times to meet families’ needs and accommodate new assessments for autism and family violence.
ANMF took their proposal to the Andrews Government. On 7 November 2022, Premier Daniel Andrews and Health Minister Mary-Anne Thomas announced a re-elected Labor Government would increase key ages and stages appointment times to a total of eight hours, which was our delegates ask, as part of a $69 million package to support new parents.
In June 2022, ANMF Job Reps and HSRs (after speaking with members at their workplace) passed delegate resolution 58 at the Annual Delegates Conference calling on ANMF to lobby the Andrews Government to improve nursing levels in intensive care units. The resolution proposed the inclusion of ICUs in the Safe Patient Care Act including a ratio of clinical care registered nurses to registered nurses, formalising the accepted practice of 1:1 ratio, and new team leader and liaison nurse positions with no patient allocation.
ANMF took their proposal to the Andrews Government. On 9 November 2022, Premier Daniel Andrews and Health Minister Mary-Anne Thomas announced if re-elected they would amend the Safe Patient Care Act to enshrine 1:1 ICU ratios, introduce new team leader and liaison nurse positions in level 1 and 2 ICUs and add an in-charge position to the night shift ratios in stand-alone high dependency and coronary care units.
Employment check red tape
In June 2022, ANMF Job Reps and HSRs (after speaking with members at their workplace) passed Delegate resolution 31 at the Annual Delegates Conference calling on ANMF to work towards the introduction of a single employment background check to replace the Working with Children, National Police and NDIS worker checks.
ANMF took their proposal to the Andrews Government. On 4 November, Premier Daniel Andrews wrote to ANMF (Vic Branch) outlining a re-elected Labor Government’s commitments to ANMF members. These commitments included establishing a central ‘check’ for nurses and midwives designed to save them time and money, particularly when changing employers.
Speaking to ANMF without ‘speaking’ to ANMF
Contradicting Mr Guy, Opposition health spokesperson Georgie Crozier has been telling the media she has ‘spoken’ to the ANMF.
Talking to ANMF was an issue raised during Channel 9 Melbourne’s health debate on Monday 7 November between Health Minister Mary-Anne Thomas and Ms Crozier.
Debate moderator Alicia Oxley asked Ms Crozier about her election commitment discussions with the ANMF referring to ANMF’s 29 September 2022 media release that compared the major parties’ workforce election commitments.
Ms Oxley asked: ‘The ANMF says that your plan to hire 40,000 extra health workers, that you haven’t consulted them, they say that plan lacks detail and shows a shallow understanding of what is actually needed. Why haven’t you spoken to the ANMF about this?’
Ms Crozier answered: ‘I have spoken to the ANMF and I have spoken to a whole range of stakeholders.’
Ms Crozier provided no detail about her discussions with ANMF.
‘It’s true Ms Crozier spoke to the ANMF,’ Ms Fitzpatrick said, ‘It’s not true she spoke to us about the Coalition’s workforce plan or election commitments — that was never discussed.’
Ms Crozier ‘spoke’ with the ANMF at a meeting on 5 July, from 2.30pm and 3.30pm, with Secretary Lisa Fitzpatrick and Assistant Secretaries Paul Gilbert and Madeleine Harradence.
For the record, this meeting discussed nurse practitioners, the Medicare Benefits Scheme and the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme.
Public sector nurses and midwives have not forgotten that the Coalition broke its 2010 election promise to maintain ratios. The last Coalition Victorian Government sought to substitute nurses and midwives with health assistants when it began negotiating the 2011 public sector enterprise agreement. ANMF members across the state had to campaign for nine months to save ratios. The next public sector negotiations start in September 2023.
Curiously neither Mr Guy nor Ms Crozier have mentioned ratios or the Safe Patient Care Act as part of the Victorian Liberal Party’s nursing and midwifery workforce planning workforce policies or commitments.
Authorised by Lisa Fitzpatrick, Secretary, ANMF (Vic Branch), 535 Elizabeth Street, Melbourne VIC 3000.