The Nurses Professional Association of Queensland (NPAQ) today began its legal battle to be recognised as a registered employee association.
The landmark case in the Industrial Relations Commission will have huge ramifications for the rights of 200,000 Queensland public servants.
And furthermore, it could see the end of the Queensland Labor Party’s monopoly on unions.
A registered employee association
The case began when nurse Margaret Gilbert spoke to The Sunday Mail as a NPAQ delegate about nurse training standards.
Queensland Health issued her with a show-cause notice threatening her with dismissal for speaking to the media without authorisation.
The department argued the NPAQ cannot represent or advocate on behalf of employees because it is not a registered employee organisation.
While the department subsequently withdrew the show cause notice, it is continuing its fight against the NPAQ.
Right to represent members
Assistant State Secretary Jack McGuire told The Courier-Mail today’s trial will decide if the NPAQ has the right to represent its members like a traditional union.
“If our association is successful it will herald the end of monopoly unions.”
Mr McGuire argues Queensland’s new Human Rights Act protects Ms Gilbert’s right to freedom of speech in addition to her freedom of association.
“Monday’s case will test the definition of ‘industrial association’ and ‘trade union,’ the new Human Rights Act and a memo sent out by Queensland Health saying that we are not a trade union and cannot represent members.
“We are challenging that.’’
If successful, the case will pave the way for other organisations to represent workers in addition to existing traditional unions.
Non party political
The NPAQ is not a registered trade union, instead, it claims to be a non-party-political industrial association.
As a result, it will not finance any political party or cause.
It currently has 6000 members, compared to the existing Queensland Nurses and Midwives’ Union which has more than 60,000 members.
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