The Queensland Nurses and Midwives’ Union (QNMU) will honour local, Australian and international frontline workers this Labour Day.
QNMU Secretary Beth Mohle said Covid-19 had shone a light on the valuable contributions of nurses, midwives, aged care staff and many other frontline workers.
Ms Mohle said this predominantly female workforce had put themselves at risk to care for others during the pandemic. She said their work and the Australian union movement should be celebrated on Labour Day.
“This Labour Day we celebrate and value the work of all those on the frontline during Covid-19,’’ Ms Mohle said.
“We acknowledge and celebrate all nurses, midwives, aged care staff and other frontline workers. It’s important to note that the Covid-19 frontline, both here and around the world, consists predominantly of women.
“Coronavirus has brought into sharp relief the value of the work these staff undertake in hospitals, health services, aged care facilities, childcare, retail and elsewhere. These staff are the glue that bind our society.’’
Ms Mohle also celebrated the union movement that protects these workers – and those they care for.
“Unions throughout Australia and the world work very hard to ensure safe and fair conditions for workers and those they care for,’’ Ms Mohle said.
“In Queensland, this is evidenced by the initiatives such as the QNMU’s campaign to see nurse-to-patient ratios introduced in the state’s public hospitals.
“Premier Palaszczuk made this initiative law in 2016 and since then it has saved 145 lives and up to $81 million taxpayer dollars.
“Unions have successfully campaigned for initiatives that protect Australians every day.’’
Around the world, experts have seen correlations between countries with strong union movements and outcomes during a time of crisis.
American economist Joseph Stiglitz this week told the ABC countries with a strong union movement experienced different Covid-19 responses to those with low member numbers. He said in the US, healthcare workers faced extreme challenges and increased risk of death.
“A good example is that employers are not providing them (healthcare workers) with protective gear. In a few instances where there are strong unions they are threatening to go on strike unless they have masks,’’ Mr Stiglitz said.
“But in most of America unions are weak and they are forced to go to work exposed to Covid-19 every day. A dramatic example is our healthcare workers, not the doctors…but people who are helping out are very exposed and dying at very high rates.’’
Ms Mohle said union protected laws and guidelines around worker, patient and resident safety could mean the difference between life and death. She paid tribute to frontline staff who died during Covid-19.
“Australia and the world are deeply saddened by the deaths of frontline staff during this pandemic. Their contributions and sacrifice will long be remembered,’’ Ms Mohle said.
“The union movement is committed to the protection of frontline and all workers. Unions ensure workers know their rights and are encouraged to campaign for safer conditions for both staff and the community.
“These conditions keep people safe and protect valuable institutions such as our public health system. Today we celebrate frontline staff and the strong union movement that protects them.’’
Ms Mohle said Australians were incredibly lucky to live in a country which had free, universal healthcare – and a strong and effective response to the Covid-19 pandemic.
She said while Labour Day marches had been cancelled due to Covid-19, Queenslanders were encouraged to share a photo of themselves wearing a union shirt and post it on Instagram tagging the QNMU @qnmuofficial. Those celebrating Labour Day can also download a Queensland Council of Unions (QCU) Facebook frame and post on social media using the hashtags #LD2020 and #LabourDay2020. Union songs and messages will also be playing on radio stations state-wide.
For more information visit the QCU Facebook page or www.labourday.org.au for more details.