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The 1986 50-day Victorian nurses and midwives strike

In October 1986, Victorian nurses began their longest strike after the failure of repeated talks with the health minister David White who was committed to reducing the classification and pay of almost half of Victoria’s nurses. Skeleton staff were left in the wards while picket lines, tents and caravans were set up outside hospitals in both metropolitan and regional Victoria.

The Labor Cain Government threatened to bring in the police and the Industrial Relations Commission threatened to arbitrate without the nurses’ union. After more talks failed, Royal Australian Nursing Federation (Victorian Branch) Secretary Irene Bolger announced the strike would escalate and nurses walked out of hospital emergency departments. Finally, in December, after 50 days, the Industrial Relations Commission handed down a decision giving nurses much of the pay rises and conditions they had originally sought.

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