On this day last year The Age published a leaked Cabinet-in-confidence document from March – though Premier Baillieu, Health Minister Davis and VHIA CEO Alec Djoneff had repeatedly publicly stated that they were interested in genuine negotiations, the leaked document proved that their aims were to replace qualified, registered nurses and midwives with minimally trained aides, to weaken or wholly kill nurse/midwife: patient ratios, introduce short shifts and split shifts, and cut the overall Victorian nursing and midwifery budget by 4%, or $104 million.
We know from the Kennett years that workload, far more than pay rates, influences how willing nurses and midwives are to stay in their professions. As patients become steadily more acute, with increasing comorbidities and shortening lengths of stay, nurses and midwives are already doing more with less. To add to this demanding workload by reducing educated, registered staff, to make us also responsible for the practice of unaccountable health assistants, and to staff wards and departments on projections of peak activity demonstrated a total ignorance of what our roles are, what our shifts are like, and of the very real difference skilled care makes to patient outcomes.
It is one thing to negotiate vigorously – that’s part of the process. It’s one thing to ask for more than you’re prepared to settle for – that’s standard. It is quite another thing to blatantly, repeatedly, undeniably lie and negotiate in bad faith. These lies, for me, represent the lack of integrity this government has.
The release of the Cabinet-in-confidence submission marked a turning point. Though previously prepared to fight to maintain and improve nursing and midwifery conditions, as I had in every previous Award and EBA negotiation since 1992, this is the anniversary of my militancy. I would not, and will not, allow this to stand.
In 753 days, or two years, three weeks and two days, Victoria will go to the polls. And I will do everything I can to ensure that the Victorian coalition makes history as the first Party in over half a century to lose after only one term.