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VIC nurses front industrial tribunal

The ANF denies its industrial action has put patient safety at risk at today’s Fair Work hearing.

The Victorian government will ask Fair Work Australia today to terminate industrial action being taken by nurses, following the cancellation of 150 operations and the closure of almost 900 beds.

The government has backed a Victorian Hospitals' Industrial Association bid to terminate industrial action by the Australian Nursing Federation (ANF), which began on Saturday.

The VHIA is being represented by Frank Parry, SC, who also represented Qantas in its dispute with several unions.

He said he would be relying on part of the Fair Work Act that permits the industrial umpire to terminate industrial action which endangers the life, personal safety, health or welfare of the public.

That is the same part of the legislation relied upon by Qantas in its action.

"As of Monday and Tuesday the impacts ... are becoming much more significant and as the week goes on the effects will become more significant to the users of the public health system," he told the Fair Work Australia hearing which began this morning.

"There will be more and more elective surgery cancelled, there will be more and more beds closed ... those in emergency wards will inevitably have delays and disruptions and upset to their lives."

Warren Friend, SC, for the ANF, said his client absolutely rejected the contention the action was endangering the health, welfare or safety of the public due to the exemptions in place and the proviso that no action would be taken that jeopardised any patient's health.

"There is no endangerment to anyone's safety," he said.

Friend asked for the matter to be adjourned until Wednesday so his client could consider statements provided by several directors of nursing and health service chief executives.

The union action on the weekend followed the leaking of a cabinet document which showed the government wants to cut nurse-to-patient ratios and slash its annual nursing budget by $104 million.

The union's state secretary Lisa Fitzpatrick has denied the action would put patient safety at risk and said the union would fight the application.

"There is no capacity nor is there any desire from the federation members to close one-third of the public hospital beds in this state," she said.

"We're not convinced that the evidence is there to terminate our action.

"We will be vigorously defending that our action has not caused harm to the Victorian community."

The union is demanding an 18.5 per cent pay rise over three years and eight months and the preservation of nurse-patient ratios.


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