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Action threat over assistants

Controversy surrounds new agreement for Tasmanian nurses.

The new Tasmanian Public Sector nursing agreement is a positive step forward for the nursing profession and the Tasmanian community, says the ANF. However, the Health and Community Service Union (HACSU) continues to oppose one of the deals elements.

Prior to Christmas an overwhelming number of ANF members voted in favour of accepting the new agreement which includes a wage increase of 9.57 per cent to 11.31 per cent over the next three years, a new career structure recognising the advanced clinical roles in nursing, and the trial of the Assistant in Nursing (AIN) role.

It is the last point causing controversy.

Neroli Ellis, ANF branch secretary, said the new agreement brings Tasmania in line with every other state, where the assistant in nursing role “has been successfully introduced”.

“The nursing agreement was registered in the Tasmanian Industrial Commission in late December and HACSU did not oppose registration of the agreement at the hearing. There has been a budget allocation of $600,000 for the trial of the AINs,” Ellis said.

The introduction of AINs has been strongly opposed by HACSU from the outset, with 90 per cent of its member nurses rejecting the enterprise bargaining deal as a result of the trials inclusion.

The union is now considering industrial action over the issue, reports The Mercury.

Ellis said the ANF only agreed to the trial on the condition that all current nursing and support staff positions remain.

“AINs will support nurses in delivering patient care and have either completed the relevant acute healthcare Cert III course or will be undergraduate students who have completed clinical practice," she said.

“This offers a nationally recognised articulated career pathway for those wanting to progress through the nursing career structure. There is no intention to cause casualisation or job insecurity due to agreed tight conditions for the trial.”

However, in response to a fact sheet put out by ANF, HACSU claimed this was just “lip service”.

“Everyone knows that this is a short term arrangement. There is no doubt that in the not too distant future current positions will be replaced with AIN’s,” it said.

"HACSU members are calling on [Health Minister] Michelle O'Byrne to withdraw plans to introduce AINs and to restart negotiations with HACSU in order to finalise the nurses' agreement,” Tim Jacobson, the union’s assistant state secretary, told The Mercury.

Mr Jacobson said his members - about 600 nurses and more than 800 allied health professionals -- would escalate their campaign of community and industrial action over the issue if their concerns weren’t listened to.

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