A recent post on our Facebook page asked
“With a change of federal government more than likely and federal Labor considering tinkering with the Fair Work Act, would it be possible for you to get from both sides a statement on what their policies relating to organisations such as NPAQ are. For example, are either the Coalition or ALP considering changes that may impact on the capacity for NPAQ to represent members at EBA negotiations? You could then inform members of what the respective policy positions are so we can make a more informed decision at election time. Please keep up the good, non politically affiliated work. Asking all parties for their positions, and publicising all responses will help preserve your non-affiliated position.”
Thank you for your suggestion. What we do as a 'union' mainly rests on tradition. The law actually has little to do with it. There are laws which ostensibly restrict us and other laws which legitimize us. Neither really matters in the long run.
Firstly we are a 'union'. That is right. The term union is very generic. It’s just a bunch of people with a common cause. The Fair Work Act (Federal) talks of unions which are registered under the Fair Work Act. They are called "registered unions". The registration process has no virtue of itself. It is designed to only end up with one 'union' for each "calling" or group of workers. In other words it is a mechanism to create a series of representative monopolies. The purpose of a monopoly is to be able to get away with charging twice as much as what it actually needed. The excess of what is needed is used to support the Labor Party. The Labor Party was set up as the political wing of the "union" movement. Let us be clear. There is nothing wrong with that. We believe they are perfectly entitled to do that and if nurses want to pay their membership in the knowledge that is what is happening, we support their right to do that. (We sometimes argue that many nurse members of the QNMU don't actually know that is happening, which is different to criticizing it)
NPAQ decided that it would never apply to become part of this monopoly game. Our goal is to provide a service at the lowest possible rates that can be sustained in a competitive environment. Accordingly we elected to register as a non profit member based organisation under the Qld State Fair Trade Department. We could just as easily have registered as a "company limited by guarantee" with ASIC. The Qld Fair Trade registration is a little cheaper than ASIC by the way. We don't waste your money.
As the law currently stands The Fair Work Act specifically allows us to represent our members in EBA negotiations. Both the Qld State and Federal discrimination laws guarantee our right, or more specifically, our members rights to appoint us to represent them in all other matters.
Now to your point. The ALP are the beneficiaries of the memberships of the QNMU. Every member who joins us is $200 that doesn't get used to support the ALP. You can't blame them for not supporting us. They are hardly likely to tell us what they are likely to do.
The ACTU's Sally McManus wants to change the rules so that only her monopoly unions can be involved in determining what the industry conditions are. Sort of like a return to the Award system of old. Not good for anybody but Sally. The problem with that is that the QNMU would really only have a role in the workplace for everything other than EBA negotiations. We are half the price, and as all of your colleagues will tell you, we actually do that non EBA stuff better. The rate of nurses leaving the QNMU and joining us will accelerate if Sally gets her way. We know Sally is not silly so we know she is not going to give us a gift like that.
To be honest, the only thing that could affect us would be if they tried to change the anti discrimination legislation so that employers could discriminate against certain of their employees. Can't see that happening, can you?? So we predict there will be no major IR changes after the Federal election if Labor wins.
As for the LNP. The poor darlings have no idea how any of this stuff works. They don't even understand how nurse union membership money is used against them. They have no idea what might be good policy with respect to nurse representative organisations. They don't even understand why monopoly is bad. Last time we asked they sort of agreed that there should be competition in the employee representative space, but they felt that they, not the employees would want to approve the competition. It appears they don't trust nurses to decide for themselves. So no. No point in writing to the LNP for a while. They will eventually wake up but don't hold your breath.
In summary. There is no legislative solution good or bad to what we are doing. Change will simply occur after change has already occurred. No one is going to pass a law to help NPAQ for the reason given. More importantly, we don't want them to because we don't need them to. The existing legal framework does not need to change for us to continue to grow and do our job for you. Just keep talking to your colleagues and the shear weight of numbers will win the day. As Stalin famously said when comparing 'quantity' to 'quality'. "Quantity has a certain quality all of it's own"