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Industrial Relations Commission gags WA nurses union, scraps vote over government offer

The workplace relations umpire has shut down a vote by nurses and midwives on the McGowan government's proposed wages offer and gagged their union's leadership.

The Australian Nursing Federation (ANF) and government representatives appeared before the Industrial Relations Commission today over their increasingly acrimonious industrial dispute.

The hearing was called after a week of chaotic negotiations and comments by the union's state secretary Janet Reah that the government's offer was "insulting", "divisive", and would likely be voted down by members.

Ms Reah, who had also threatened a one-day statewide strike if the vote was declined, had been accused of trying to sway the votes.

The poll on the government's offer was due to start today and end on Tuesday.

But the IRC has now ordered it to be deferred until November 28.

It has also ordered that until that vote is held, the union's officers and employees cannot make public statements which push for a better offer, or encourage members to vote for or against the current offer.

After the hearing, a furious Ms Reah denounced the ruling.

"We've been effectively gagged," ANF state secretary Janet Reah said.

"I won't be threatened by the industrial commission and I won't be threatened by the government."

"We're not happy with it, they didn't put gag orders on the government, they're allowed to speak freely whilst the ANF has been curtailed."

The state government would not comment on the details of the hearing.

"The state government worked closely with the ANF in the WA Industrial Relations Commission to form an offer that was acceptable to them and in-principle agreement was reached on 15 November, 2022," a spokesperson said.

The commission also recommended the parties not engage in any further bargaining until January 8 next year.

The ANF's chief executive Mark Olson and Ms Reah were booed by members earlier this week over the rollercoaster negotiations.

Nurses and midwives had been due to start rolling stoppages at hospitals on Wednesday, but that was abruptly stopped by the union leadership after the in-principle agreement with the government was reached on Tuesday.

Ms Reah said ANF members had since deluged the union with messages saying how angry they were and that they did not support the offer.

"I kept quiet for two days to let the members look at the offer and consider what they thought of it. And the overwhelming reaction that we've had via emails, texts and the Facebook page is that they don't like the offer," she said earlier today.

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