Friday 26th June 2009
New award delivers near-parity with public health system
Nurses at the Department of Ageing, Disability and Home Care (DADHC) will get wage increases totalling 12.5% between now and July next year, bringing them closer to parity with public hospital rates.
NSWNA members overwhelmingly endorsed a new DADHC award negotiated by the union, with nine of 10 branches voting in favour.
The increases cover a three-year period from 1 July last year to 30 June 2011. Nurses will be paid three 4% instalments compounding to a total of 12.5%, with the first increase backdated to 1 July last year, when the previous award expired.
Allowances will be adjusted in line with increases to pay rates.
NSWNA General Secretary Brett Holmes said union members at DADHC had made it clear their highest priority in award negotiations was achieving parity with public hospital rates.
‘This award achieves pay parity with public health system colleagues – but with some delay,’ Brett said.
He said the Department initially offered a 12% increase in return for nurses agreeing to trial the use of endorsed enrolled nurses in charge of a unit when a RN was unavailable.
‘Most members saw this not as an occasional solution to temporary staff shortages but as an attempt to cut costs, and strongly rejected it,’ Brett said.
‘The Department made a revised offer with the same increases but with the enrolled nurse pilot project removed.
‘Keeping DADHC rates close to public system rates is absolutely essential so that DADHC can continue to attract nurses in competition with public and private hospitals, and there can be no argument for trying to introduce non-nursing classifications into the large residential centres.’
For Maurice Browne RN, President of the NSWNA Branch at the Kanangra Centre at Morisset, the new award is ‘a pretty good win’.
‘The Department tried to break the nexus between our rates and public hospitals and we’ve never been happy about that. So to have this agreement where we eventually do catch up with Health is a good outcome,’ he said.
Maurice, a delegate to the NSWNA DADHC log of claims committee, said the award negotiations were conducted in a difficult environment, with State Government policy requiring all public sector workers to accept offsets for any pay increase above 2.5% per year.
‘I thought in this climate we did pretty well to get three lots of 4% with minimal trade offs,’ he said.
‘Staff at Kanangra were very sceptical about the reasoning behind the Department’s earlier proposal to trial EENs in charge of shifts. The department claimed it would only apply if they couldn’t find replacement RNs at short notice.
‘But most nurses here feared it would allow management to engineer rosters so that they were able to have an EEN in charge in preference to a RN.
‘Our branch therefore overwhelmingly rejected the first-round offer. The enrolled nurse clause was make or break for us, as it was for a lot of centres.
‘As it turned out, we lost nothing by rejecting that clause and the branch voted unanimously in favour of the department’s second offer.
‘The offsets we eventually accepted, such as restrictions on unsupported sick leave, were pretty minor, I think, although some people wouldn’t agree with me.
‘No one ever likes to lose conditions but in the current industrial climate it was a pretty good outcome given the rules set by the Government.’
More RNUMs upgraded
Three more Residential Nurse Unit Managers at DADHC have been upgraded after appeals by the union.
This follows the regrading of more than half the department’s residential RNUMs, on the basis of the number of residents in care and the extent of their needs (see The Lamp April 2009 page 22).
The regrading agreement negotiated by the NSWNA included an appeal process where a manager believed a unit was inappropriately graded.
The final state-wide tally stands at seven RNUMs Level 3, 26 RNUMs Level 2 and 25 RNUMs Level 1. The upgraded RNUMs receive back pay to July 2004.