Our say | A strike won’t work without public’s support

A 24-HOUR snap strike at the Bathurst Base Hospital should concern all members of the local community.

The Health Services Union says around 150 hospital staff will walk off the job on Wednesday to protest what they call a culture of “bullying, harassment and intimidation”.

They are strong words, and a snap strike is a strong action. But the HSU needs to tread carefully if it wants to keep the public onside in this dispute.

Regardless of the rights and wrongs of the case, the HSU is playing a dangerous game by using hospital patients as pawns in its fight with management.

Striking staff on Wednesday could include catering, security and cleaning staff, along with allied health professionals and security personnel.

There is no way the hospital will be able to run at full capacity with all those people off the job and the community will not respond well to closed beds or, worse, closed doors.

The Western Advocate understands the final decision to strike was taken late on Tuesday afternoon, leaving hospital management precious little time to make alternate arrangements.

No doubt the union will argue it has been left with choice but to strike, but there is always a choice – particularly where dealing with the public is concerned.

The HSU says issues at the hospital have been a “festering sore” for some time and need to be addressed. If that’s the case, though, then this should not be the first the public has heard of the issues.

If there has been mediation between the union and hospital management then there clearly needs to be more.

If the union was not satisfied with the results of mediation, then it had the option of making its concerns public and calling for support to effect change.

If the union believed striking was its final option, then the public – and hospital management – should have been made aware of the decision with several days’ notice rather than just a few hours.

Strikes are always an appeal for public sympathy and the HSU appears to have played this badly.

Its handling of the matters means the union’s claims of bullying and harassment will be lost among the public outrage over so many staff walking off strike with so little notice. Patients – and union members – deserve better than that.