Fair and equitable compensation and other work benefits for nurses are major concerns of ICN. In some countries, the NNA operates as a union engaging in collective bargaining for the profession. In others the NNA, although not recognised as a union, may be involved in a number of workplace advocacy activities. Such programmes have intensified in recent years, as governments and employers struggling to hold down healthcare costs have revised staffing mixes and have clamped down on salary increases. This has forced the profession to refocus the system's attention away from the cost of nursing to the value of nursing.
Many recent studies have demonstrated that nurses are the best investment in health care. In this campaign for equitable treatment, ICN serves as a resource to its member associations. ICN has utilised the work of experts to collect essential data on the contributions of nurses to health care and has disseminated this information to its members, along with news about trends in remuneration. In addition it has conducted regional and national workshops where association leaders compare trends, problems and solutions regarding workplace and economic issues. And it has initiated a Leadership in Negotiation project to prepare nurses for the challenge within today's healthcare system facing increasing financial constraints. The art of negotiation is a skill emphasised in this project.
On an international level, ICN represents nurses and nursing within the International Labour Organisation to ensure that their universal definitions and guidelines, followed by many countries in classifying and compensating their workforce, justly reflect the competencies and responsibilities of nurses. Eternal vigilance and activism are necessary to safeguard and promote nurses' workplace interests.
ICN responds to social issues within the workplace. For example, ICN is actively campaigning against the exploitation of child labour. Nurses, as health professionals have a responsibility to serve as advocates and safeguard childhood. They are particularly implicated when health goods are produced by child labour (see Nursing Matters Safeguarding the Childhood of Children).