Landmark case tests rights of Qld’s 200,000 public servants
A LANDMARK case which threatens to end the Queensland Labor Party's century old strangle hold on the union opens this morning in the Industrial Relations Commission.
The case will pit the upstart Nurses Professional Association of Queensland against the vast resources of the Crown Law Office in a contest with enormous ramifications for the rights of more than 200,000 Queensland public servants.
Pivotal to the outcome of the hearing will be interpretations of the Queensland Labor Government's own historic Human Rights Act 2019 legislation which only came into force on January 1 this year.
The battle began when Prince Charles Hospital nurse Marg Gilbert spoke to a journalist last November in her role as an NPAQ advocate and questioned the level of training given to nursing graduates.
Ms Gilbert was slapped with a show-cause notice by Queensland Health asking why she should not be suspended for talking to the The Sunday Mail newspaper media about levels of training _ a notice withdrawn after intervention by the NPAQ.
A Queensland Health memo has also gone out to all staff advising the NPAQ could not represent or advocate on behalf of employees because it was not a registered employee organisation.
NPAQ Assistant State Secretary Jack McGuire said this morning's hearings centred on crucial matters of freedom of association and freedom of speech guaranteed under Labor's own Human Rights Act.
Mr McGuire said a central question at the heart of the case, expected to be heard for three days, was the basic right of the NPAQ to freely and openly represent its members.
If the NPAQ submission was successful other bodies could possibly be created to represent workers and smash the Labor's Party's historic relationship with unions.
"If our association is successful it will herald the end of monopoly unions,'' Mr McGuire said.
"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.''
Formed in 2014 the NPAQ is not a registered trade union but bills itself as a non party political industrial association of employees which will not finance any political party or cause.
The NPAQ says its principal purpose is to "protect and promote the interests of members in matters concerning their employment.''
With around 6000 members it is an alternative to the Queensland Nurses and Midwives' Union which has more than 60,000 members and a history dating back to 1921.
The hearing inside the Industrial Relations Commission will be made even more intriguing by the presence of former Gillard Labor Government Senator Joe Ludwig who is on the NPAQ legal team, along with barrister and former AWU organiser Troy Spence who is the husband of Terri Butler, the Labor member for the Federal Seat of Griffith.
Originally published as Landmark case tests rights of Qld's 200,000 public servants