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June 2004   

Interview: The New Democrat
Canadian activist Judy Rebick explains how she's using lessons from Brazil to rebuild the labour movement.

Bad Boss: The Ugly Australian
Prime Minister John Howard is in California spruiking the "merits" of this month´┐Żs Bad Boss nomination ´┐Ż

Unions: Free Spirits and Slaves
International capital demands guest labour ´┐Ż legal or illegal ´┐Ż as a way of beating down wages and conditions and, as Jim Marr discovers, the Australian Government seems happy to oblige.

Industrial: National Focus
Noel Hester reports on another workplace death (we-will-not-RIP NOHSC), heartburn for the Canberra consensus and all the action from around the states in our national wrap.

History: A Class Act
The problem of forgetting the primacy of class in favour of other ideas of community is highlighted in a new book, writes Neale Towart

International: Across the Ditch
NZ Nurses Union leader, Laila Harr´┐Ż, is in Sydney this week, comparing notes with the Australian Nurses Federation and seeking transTasman support for New Zealand´┐Żs highest profile industrial campaign.

Economics: Home Truths
Sydney University's Frank Stilwell argues that tax policy is driving the housing boom.

Review: No Time Like Tomorrow
The Day After Tomorrow is one part Grim Reaper of the environmental movement and two parts fictitious fable dramatically window dressed with extreme special effects, writes Tara de Boehmler.

Poetry: Silent Note
Resident Bard David Peetz uncovers the current public service motto ´┐Ż "Don't tell the Minister!".


The Soapbox
The Pursuit of Happiness Part I
The Australia Institute's Clive Hamilton questions the assumptions underlying a society that defines happiness in dollar terms.

The Soapbox
The Pursuit of Happiness Part II
Clive Hamilton concludes his analysis, looking at how more and more Australians are pulling back from a marketplace that is no longer providing the goods.

The Locker Room
Sack ´┐ŻEm All!
Phil Doyle puts his job on the line, but doesn´┐Żt everyone these days?

The Westie Wing
The NSW Government has an agenda on the table but the test is finding innovative ways to finance it, writes Ian West


Last Year´┐Żs Model
Economists keep telling us things have never been better, all the economic indicators say so. Which sparks the obvious question: why are so many of us feeling so low?


 Trade Deal a $47 Billion Dud

 Ground Staff Spread Fashion Wings

 Ghan Raises Trans-Continental Stink

 Union Busters Bank on Labor

 Witnesses Face Casual Duress

 Rail Workers Cop ´┐ŻBeer Nannies´┐Ż

 Sun Shines on Green Bans

 Big Business Plan to Cripple Compo

 Money Can´┐Żt Buy Me Love

 Federal Election in Doubt

 Safety Defects Plague Adelaide

 Police Investigate Assault Claim

 Activists What´┐Żs On!

 Liberal Laugh
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Across the Ditch

By Lyndy McIntyre

NZ Nurses Union leader, Laila Harr´┐Ż, is in Sydney this week, comparing notes with the Australian Nurses Federation and seeking transTasman support for New Zealand´┐Żs highest profile industrial campaign.

Laila Harr´┐Ż is heading up the NZ campaign to win pay equity for nurses and says victory is in sight at last.

"After many years of campaigning for fair pay, underpaid nurses and midwives sense they are on the last leg of a long struggle to win recognition of their value in their pay packets," she said.

"Over the next few months we expect to win, in national negotiations, the historic pay settlement generations of New Zealand nurses have worked for."

A landslide "yes" vote in a national ballot of NZ Nurses Organisation members employed in public hospitals conducted last month has given the green light for national negotiations.

NZNO members overwhelmingly backed a return to national bargaining after 13 years of enterprise bargaining with local health board has failed to bring nurses' pay in line with other state sector workers with similar skills, effort and responsibility.

When the negotiations for 20,000 NZNO members begin in late June it will be the first national pay negotiations for public hospital nurses in 13 years.

NZNO will be claiming a jump in nurses' pay to match teachers and police. This means lifting nurses' rates over 20-25%.

Nurses in New Zealand, with a three year degree qualification and an average $20,000 student debt, are on starting rates of about $33,000.

Average penal rates for unsociable hours increase this to $37,700. Nurses hit the top of the basic pay scale at a median rate of $44,500.

This compares to teachers, who can climb to over $56,000 and police constables, who hit the top of their scale at $69,000 (including shift allowances and superannuation).

Laila Harr´┐Ż said NZ rates lag behind other similar countries as well, including many Australian nurses and NZ hospitals are in crisis with understaffed wards around the country.

"With the average age of nurses in their mid-forties, it's very clear that nursing is no longer an attractive career option for young New Zealand women. Our public health system can no longer rely on smart young women volunteering for a career when they have many other options with better pay and better workloads," she said.

Nurses are determined that Fair Pay will not come at the expense of staffing levels. The campaign has focused on the twin goals of a fair pay settlement and the establishment of staffing levels that are safe for patients and nurses.

Laila Harr´┐Ż said the time was right for nurses in NZ to win.

"We have strong public support, a government committed to pay equity and most importantly an organised membership, united around the Fair Pay campaign," she said.

Harr´┐Ż is well qualified to lead nurses to pay equity victory. Prior to taking a leadership role with NZNO, as a former Minister of Women's Affairs and Associate Minister of Labour, Harr´┐Ż was responsible for bringing 12 weeks paid parental leave into NZ law.

Harr´┐Ż was then a member of the Labour/Alliance coalition government and was later Leader of the left wing Alliance party.

She has brought to NZNO a strong track record and commitment to activism in unions, politics and women's work issues.

"Nurses' activism is the heart of this campaign," she said.

"We will win Fair pay because nurses have increased their activism and united around a goal which is about fairness."

The results of that increased activism has been a highly visible campaign within hospitals and on the streets, as NZNO members have built confidence in their campaign and moved to join forces in national bargaining.

Formal bargaining begins in a few weeks. The pay equity settlement which is the campaign goal will require significant extra government funding for health board employers.

NZNO members are confident the strong public and political focus of the campaign, and the industrial unity in national negotiations will make 2004 the year of the nurse in New Zealand.


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