Good morning and a happy May Day to you all! As the fight for the mental health EBA continues, almost a year after the formalisation of the MH log of claims, and almost ten months after the publication of that log, we remember the tireless work of those union leaders and members who came before us.

On this day in 1886 workers across the US went on strike in support of an 8-hour work day – violence, including the shooting deaths of two strikers by police, resulted in a retaliatory bombing in Chicago (known as the Haymarket affair, killing one police officer and wounding six others), while ‘shoot to kill’ orders in Milwaukee from the Wisconsin governor resulted in the deaths of 7 strikers, including a thirteen year old boy (the Bay View massacre or tragedy). These were the first, but by no means the last, May Day riots.

The conditions and wages we have weren’t given to us – they’ve been fought for by unions and the members they represent. We saw, during this campaign, how readily the government will weaken them, or even take them away, unless we unite and act – even when retaining them is in the long-term best interests of the community as a whole. There’s no question that ratios result in better patient outcomes, reduced nurse burnout, improved staff retention, and lower health care costs, but despite over a decade of evidence, the Baillieu government fought hard to weaken ratios to the point where they would be ratios in name only, and continues to resist the implementation of ratios in other areas (like mental health and aged care).

We fought harder, because for VHIA and the Baillieu government this was about short-term surplus and a ‘tough on unions’ stance, while for us it was about the best interests and the lives of our patients, protection of our profession, and the defence of our registrations.

In two years, 6 months and 4 weeks (or 942 days) we will be at the state polls; sooner than that we’ll be voting federally. When thinking about your ballot, remember those who came before us, and the legacy we’ll be leaving the workers who will follow us.

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