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Health Services Union First Female National Secretary

22 January 2008

Kathy Jackson has been appointed as the first female National Secretary of the Health Services Union, the largest national health union representing all classifications of health workers.

Ms Jackson replaces Craig Thompson who became the Labor member for Dobell in the Federal election last November.

Ms Jackson has stated her priorities include achieving greater recognition of health workers, addressing skills shortages by retaining existing employees and attracting new staff and resisting attempts by State Governments to use WorkChoices against HSU members.

"I want to make sure our members get a fair voice. For too long people have just talked about doctors and nurses in the health sector, when our members make up a large proportion of the health workforce" Ms Jackson said. "Doing the right thing by the workforce is necessary to achieve better outcomes for patients."

Ms Jackson has a long history of service to health workers and the Health Services Union. Ms Jackson has been Secretary of the Health Services Union, Health Professionals' Branch in Victoria since 1997. During this time she has overseen membership growth in the branch of over 100%, to around 4,600 members.

Ms Jackson is also active in the ALP's right faction, is vice president of the ACTU Executive and a director on the board of HESTA.

As the incoming National Secretary Ms Jackson will have a crucial role to play in ensuring the interests of health workers are represented at the National Reform Agenda (NRA) which is being driven by the Prime Minister and the Council of Australian Governments (COAG).

"Health worker shortages, particularly in the public sector, are directly impacting on the Australian community and the ability of the Australian economy to continue to grow."

"There is an enormous amount of work to do in order to address the gross imbalance in policies and resources for doctors and nurses, and practically nothing for the rest of the health workforce" Ms Jackson said.

"Doctors and nurses do not work in a vacuum, they cannot function without the raft of health professionals, practitioners, technicians, assistants and many other professions required to treat patients and run health services. Doing the right thing by this workforce directly impacts on the quality of care for patients and the community.

Ms Jackson's commitment to the health workforce equally reflects her concerns about the future health of Australians and the public health system.

"My role will be to advocate on behalf of HSU members, who care as much about high quality, accessible health services for the community as their own terms and conditions", Ms Jackson said.

Ms Jackson is currently embroiled in a bitter enterprise bargaining dispute for health professionals in Victoria, where Premier Brumby is imposing the most severe threats available under WorkChoices to prevent health workers from bargaining.

"We are obviously still waiting for WorkChoices to be put to bed. It's also time that Mr Brumby wakes up and realises that Victorians did not endorse the use of WorkChoices for use against anyone, let alone their health workers. We will bargain lawfully, but we will not lie down."

"It is in everyone's interest that health workers' conditions improve to address the massive exodus of workers to other countries and fields."

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