ANF hauled into last-minute meeting to avoid nurses strikes

The Australian Nursing Federation has been hauled into an urgent meeting at the WA Industrial Relations Commission less than 48 hours before a series of rolling strikes at public hospitals are set to begin.

WA Health asked for the IRC meeting this morning, shortly after ANF chief executive Mark Olson revealed well over 300 nurses were planning to stay away from Fiona Stanley Hospital on Wednesday.

It is possible the Commission will order the ANF to call off the planned strikes — although Mr Olson said that kind of direction was unlikely to be complied with if it was not attached to a new wages offer for nurses and midwives to consider.

“I think that if the Commission makes an order without any further improvements in what’s on the table, then I expect most of the members will say no thanks we’ll go ahead with the strike on Wednesday,” he said.

“I’m an optimist. I hope that they’re bringing something. It’s just whether it is good enough.”

The meeting began at 2.30pm on Monday and could run late into the evening.

Arriving at the Commission, Mr Olson said the number of nurses who had registered to strike across the morning and afternoon shifts at FSH on Wednesday now stood at 473, which includes theatre nurses.

Some 134 nurses have also signed up to strike at Rockingham Hospital across the morning and afternoon shifts on Thursday, while 92 have so far registered to strike at Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital on Friday — although that figure is expected to grow.

Earlier in the day, Mr Olson said the FSH strike on Wednesday would cause “massive disruption” — including the cancellation of all elective surgery besides priority one.

Camera IconMr Olson said the FSH strike on Wednesday would cause ‘massive disruption’. Credit: Iain Gillespie/The West Australian

While nurses working in critical areas of the hospital — including the emergency department, intensive care unit and maternity wards — are exempted from the strike, Mr Olson said there was “no question” the bulk of elective surgeries would have to be cancelled on Wednesday.

“At the very least, you’re going to see the cancellation of category two and category three surgery,” he said.

“Certainly with those large numbers (of nurses planning to strike) in the theatre and the recovery areas of Fiona Stanley Hospital, that just gives you an indication of the depth of frustration and anger and depth of feeling that’s there.”

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