It’s 838 days until we go to the polls and vote for our next state leadership.

There’s been some discussion on the ANF Facebook page in the last week or so about the pay outcomes of our EBA, specifically comparison of the increase with CPI, and the way the Continuing Professional Development allowance was paid – pro rata’d based on contracted hours, paid only to permanent staff, and as part of regular pay so not only taxed but taxed at a higher rate because of the accompanying back pay. The primary issues raised have been first that agency and bank staff do not qualify, amd second that the increases don’t meet CPI, leaving Victoria’s nurses and midwives the least well paid in the nation.

The issues raised are valid, and I appreciate the frustration expressed – without our bank and agency staff everyone would be worse off, and they are valued. I dropped my hours to very part-time, after over 22 years full-time, at just the right moment to miss out on the CPD payment, and any extra shifts I pick up won’t be recognised in the next payment, because it’s calculated on contracted hours, not hours worked – so I’m not just saying that I get why people are unhappy – I’m affected, too.

Here’s the thing, though. We all know how determined the government was to strip us of conditions I didn’t even know were optional – like reintroducing split shifts, which haven’t been around for over 40 years, and being sent to another ward, department or even hospital mid-shift. We know that they followed a plan to manipulate us into compulsory arbitration, where we’d lose the ratios we won in 2000 and have fought to keep ever since; where we’d lose an all nurse/midwife workforce, risking our patients’ lives and our registrations; where we would be faced with not only heavier workloads but reduced hours and multiple staff movements in every twenty-four hour period.

We all know how hard we fought. Those of us who spent any significant time with ANF staff, from support personnel to the Executive, know they worked even harder: sacrificing leave, missing out on time with family, weeks on end with no days off at all, negotiation meetings that ended when the sun rose.

That we not only kept ratios, skill mix, and hours but actually introduced new ratios (even if only in a few areas) AND got a pay increase higher than the government wanted is a tribute to all that work, and to the commitment, dedication and passion of the strongest branch of Australia’s biggest union, the Australian Nursing Federation.

Next time we’ll try to get an outcome that financially recognises our worth, that helps grow our workforce, that includes not only improved ratios but more places for the newest members of our professions. And to give that effort the best chance, to give us the best chance, there’s something we can do in the meantime: encourage your colleagues to join us, because the stronger we are the more impact we have; if you’re not a member yourself, there’s never been a better time to join; and remember the fights we’ve had, for acute public nurses, midwives, mental health and District and community health nurses, nurses working at the Blood Bank and in the private sector, and the long campaign for aged care.

For those reading this who aren’t nurses or midwives, remember that you and your families will use our services too – we’re fighting not only for our best interests but for the long-term wellbeing of our communities as a whole and our patients in particular.

Think about who is more likely to fund health care properly; who’s more likely to respect the work we do and the education and skill we need; and whose track record demonstrates that campaign promises mean nothing, that pledges to negotiate are lies, and who instructed their negotiating body to distribute information on how to lock nurses out of their hospitals. Victoria goes tot eh polls in 838 days, and the nation will vote some time in the next sixteen months. Before you vote, think about what you’re voting for, and what we’ll face in 2016.