Queensland nurses will get a better deal after a surprise admission by the nurses union in the Fair Work Commission.
The Queensland Nurses and Midwives Union (QNMU) wanted to ban the rival Nurses’ Professional Association of Queensland (NPAQ) from participating in enterprise bargaining negotiations.
However, during a recent hearing, the QNMU reluctantly admitted the NPAQ does have a legal right to be at the table.
As a result, all nurses will be better off, according to industrial advocate Miles Heffernan.
“Competition is a good thing, and this will stop ‘sweet-heart’ deals between a single union and a major health employer.
“There will now be another party in negotiations fighting for a better deal for all nurses.”
QNMU admits rival union can bargain
Within minutes of the hearing commencing last week, QNMU representative Kevin Crank conceded the NPAQ did have the right to represent members during enterprise bargaining negotiations.
Crank reluctantly told Commissioner Susan Booth:
“The evidence to us seems to mean that… NPAQ is a bargaining representative in these proceedings.”
Backdown comes after 12-month battle
Crank’s embarrassing backdown follows a 12-month battle by the QNMU to ban the NPAQ from negotiations.
He claimed the rival association had no legal standing to be in the meetings.
Furthermore, he also allegedly warned health provider Bolton Clarke the QNMU will not participate in any negotiations if the NPAQ is present.
Following Crank’s concession, NPAQ Assistant Secretary Jack McGuire said:
“We feel vindicated, because we knew we were right to be there all along, and now we have had our position confirmed in the Fair Work Commission.
“Nurses now have a choice who represents them at the bargaining table – and so they should.”
Nurses union accused of dirty tactics
McGuire accused the QNMU of using dirty tactics and spreading misleading information.
For example, telling nurses who had switched to the NPAQ that the association will not provide them the same representation.
“They’ve been telling lies to our members that we can’t represent them in enterprise bargaining.
“As a result of Mr Crank’s admission, it’s now time for the QNMU to publicly acknowledge that they were wrong, because it is simply not true.
“They have acted in their own self-interest to protect their own financial interests, with total disregard for the conditions of hard working nurses.”
Ruling will mean better conditions for nurses
The bitter battle began during enterprise agreement negotiations with Bolton Clarke, which employs hundreds of nurses in its aged care facilities.
As a result of having a second employee association at the table, McGuire says nurses who work in these facilities will be better off.
“There is no doubt that nurses will get a better deal as a result of this decision, because there will be more competition – we are offering competition in the union sector, the likes of which we have never seen in Australian history.”
What is the QNMU afraid of?
According to McGuire, the QNMU, which once held a monopoly in Queensland, is afraid of losing members to the NPAQ.
“We are growing at about 50 new members a week, and they simply can’t stop nurses deserting their ship and coming across to our organisation.
“We offer cheaper and more effective representation, so you can understand why they see us as such a threat.”
A look at the fees
A look at current fees show:
- A full-time Registered Nurse pays the QNMU $696 a year in fees, compared with $345 to the NPAQ.
- A part-time Registered Nurse pays the QNMU $522 annually, compared with $237 to the NPAQ.
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