WA nurses’ union faces deregistration threat

The nurses’ union in WA says it has avoided deregistration, after a threat from the Industrial Relations Commission (IRC) following its strike in defiance of Commission orders.

Deregistration would be a major attack on the union, denying it the ability to strike agreements with employers or to represent members in the IRC.

Australian Nursing Federation (ANF) secretary Janet Reah, speaking after a meeting with the IRC’s Senior Commissioner, said that she was not allowed to disclose the details of the discussions and “all we are permitted to say is that the ANF remains a registered Union”.

But instead of pressing ahead with further strikes in defiance of the law, she added that the union was not planning further industrial action, instead telling members “we are in for a long campaign”.

Union members voted to demand a 10 per cent wage rise at a mass meeting in October.

Thousands of nurses staged a 24 hour statewide strike in late November, with the union officials reducing the demand to 5 per cent annual pay rises and the introduction of improved nurse to patient ratios in hospitals.

The strike only took place because of rank-and-file anger, after union officials earlier agreed in principle to accept a pay offer from the government and suspended industrial action.

In a farcical attack on union democracy, the IRC then tried to stop the union holding a vote on whether to accept the agreement.

The nurses’ determination to keep fighting for 5 per cent should be an inspiration to union members all across the country. But they are going to have to force their own union leaders to stage the industrial action that is necessary to win it.

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