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VIC nurses start a hardship fund

The Victorian nurses' union has started up a hardship fund and is asking the public to donate to it because they believe their pay will be docked as they continue to defy orders to lift work bans.

At a mass meeting in Melbourne yesterday, nurses vowed to continue unprotected industrial action and risk fines, or even jail.

But the Australian Nurses Federation (ANF) thinks the more likely outcome is that nurses will lose pay, as was the case during unprotected action in 2007.

State secretary Liza Fitzpatrick said the union had already received about $3,500 in unsolicited donations from the public in support of its campaign.

Today, the ANF will apply to the Federal Court to have Fair Work Australia's order to suspend industrial action set aside until the union's application for a judicial review of that decision is heard.

The nurses plan to march on Parliament House on November 24 in their battle for an 18.5 per cent pay rise over three years and eight months, compared with the government's offer of 2.5 per cent plus productivity improvements.

"We have been labelled as renegades, but a renegade is one who is disloyal and deserts their cause," Fitzpatrick told union members at the meeting.

"We will not abandon our patients, we are not disloyal, we stand together united."

Fair Work Australia told the nurses again on Friday, 18th to stop their work bans, after it ordered the ANF to suspend industrial action for 90 days.

Victorian Health Minister David Davis said he would do everything in the government's power to stop one in three hospital beds from closing.

He said it was extraordinary the ANF had chosen to defy the umpire's orders.

"Patient safety is the primary concern. People will be at risk," he told reporters.

Davis said 139 beds were closed as of midday yesterday while Fitzpatrick said 783 beds were closed, including 180 closed by the government, 186 due to industrial action and 373 reserved for emergency admissions.

Conciliation talks between the ANF and the body representing public hospitals, the Victorian Hospitals Industrial Association, resume in Fair Work Australia this morning.

The Fair Work Ombudsman has written to hospitals' management asking to be notified if the industrial umpire's orders are being flouted.


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