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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1999 Week 8 Hansard (24 August) . . Page.. 2284 ..

Nurses - Industrial Dispute

MR OSBORNE: Mr Speaker, my question is to the Minister for Health. Minister, can you, as the person responsible for this portfolio, put an end to the dispute at the hospital and give me and this Assembly an undertaking to start serious negotiations with the nurses, or does this Assembly need to move a motion to force you to do so?

MR MOORE: Thank you, Mr Osborne, for that question. Of course, the Assembly, at any stage, has the prerogative to pass whatever motion it likes to get me to act in any particular way within my portfolio, but let me say that to resolve a dispute requires the cooperation of two sides, and I cannot fault the efforts made by the hospital to negotiate with the nurses union. It started from the time the industrial relations commissioner recommended that negotiations continue, and the hospital said, "Yes, we will negotiate". The nurses union said, "No, we are going to ignore the recommendation of the Industrial Relations Commission".

Remember that it was not an order of the Industrial Relations Commission. The Industrial Relations Commission said it was possible that there was room to negotiate. The union said, "No, instead, we are going to start industrial action", and that is what they did. They nominated a couple of areas in which the hospital was not prepared to negotiate. The hospital said, "Yes, we are", and wrote to the union. In fact, at 11.30 am on the day of the meeting which the union was holding at 2.30 pm to decide whether they were going to escalate industrial action, a phone call was made and two faxes were sent over with a letter in which Mr Rayment said, "We will include the areas that are in dispute, that is, salary and general nursing conditions and staffing levels. We will include those in the negotiations". Unfortunately, that information was not presented to the meeting at 2.30 pm that decided to escalate the action. The industrial action went ahead, with the Canberra Hospital constantly saying, "Yes, we will negotiate. We are happy to sit down and we are happy to negotiate".

Mr Stanhope: You have nothing to put on the table though.

MR MOORE: Mr Stanhope is incorrect. He is wrong again. He is so many times. He interjects, "You had nothing to put on the table". In fact, the Canberra Hospital had put an offer on the table to the nurses quite some time ago, and that offer remains on the table.

Mr Stanhope: Which they rejected.

MR MOORE: Now Mr Stanhope says, "But now it has been rejected". Well, either it was put on the table or it was not put on the table. It was put on the table and it includes a whole range of issues.

Mr Stanhope: You offered nothing last year.

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