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WA nurses union avoids deregistration, says no plans for further strikes in bitter pay dispute

The Australian Nursing Federation has said a threat to deregister the union will not be carried out, after the union met with Western Australia's industrial umpire.

In a dramatic change of tone following the meeting this morning, Australian Nursing Federation (ANF) WA secretary Janet Reah declined to repeat criticisms she had levelled at the Industrial Relations Commission (IRC) earlier this week.

"I can't speak about the meeting we just had in the commission because that's confidential," she said.

"What I can say is the ANF is still a registered union.

"My plans for now are I'm going to go and talk to the members about where we go from here."

The ANF has been locked in a bitter dispute with the government about pay and conditions.

The meeting was called after the IRC warned the ANF it could face suspension for defying multiple orders, including by holding a strike last week.

ANF still flagging long campaign

Ms Reah has now said the union has no plans for further strikes.

"At this point there are no plans for industrial action," she said.

"I want to say to the members that we are in for a long campaign, and I believe the government is not going to capitulate easily to our requests.

"It's still an ongoing issue, there's no orders or retraction of the summons as yet, but we're still a registered union."

On Tuesday Ms Reah accused the government of being behind the threat to deregister the union and said the IRC had been influenced by the government.

Asked today whether she still believed that was the case, Ms Reah was less candid.

"I can't speak about that at the moment," she said.

IRC completely independent: Premier

The government has strongly rejected the claims it made any attempt to influence the IRC.

"The Industrial Relations Commission is independent of government, we don't control it, it's like the courts, there's a lot of misinformation being spread to you that somehow this is the government," Premier Mark McGowan said.

"It is nothing to do with the government, the Industrial Relations Commission is separate, as are the courts. They run their own affairs.

"I'm not going to try and influence them in what they do, they are completely independent of us, it would be inappropriate for anyone to ignore their orders, or to try and tell them what to do."

Mr McGowan said Australia has had the equivalent of an Industrial Relations Commission for well over 100 years.

"Going back to Federation, back to 1901, as a way of resolving issues and resolving disputes," he said.

"And both employers and unions have overwhelmingly followed their orders because they're independent, they're there to resolve disputes.

"If you are going to ignore their orders they have whatever they do under their laws available to them, that is nothing to do with government."

IRC 'asserting its authority'

Veteran industrial relations and political analyst Peter Kennedy said the authority of the IRC had not been tested in a long time, but its strong response to the ANF should have been no surprise.

Mr Kennedy said its direction for the ANF not to strike last Friday was clear.

"For the union to defy that, I thought, showed a certain amount of naivety or they were getting some poor advice," he said.

"The commission had no alternative but to react very strongly, otherwise it's just a toothless tiger.

"So when the union blatantly ignored the commission's direction, the commission had no alternative but to come back and assert its authority, and it has significant authority."

Yesterday, Ms Reah admitted she received advice before the strike went ahead that the consequence of being deregistered was considered "low risk", but was a possibility.

Ms Reah said she did not inform ANF members of that risk prior to the strike going ahead.

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