ADHC Nurses Between A Rock And A Hard Place

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Negotiations for a new agreement that covers employees of Ageing, Disability and Home Care have started under the dark cloud of Barry O’Farrell’s new IR laws.

There are around 1,200 nurses who are affected by the agreement.

The previous ADHC agreement expired on 30 June and uncertainty over the Government’s wage policy led to a delay in talks with NSW Health.

Barry O’Farrell’s new laws put ADHC nurses in a difficult position. The ‘choices’ dictated to them by the government policy are:

  • accept a 2.5% pay rise without any trade-offs
  • trade off other conditions to get more than 2.5%
  • trade off jobs to get more than 2.5%.

NSWNA Secretary Brett Holmes says the ADHC negotiations are a preview of what all public sector nurses can expect from the Government’s wage policy now enshrined in law.

‘Unlike previous bargaining environments, discussions will no longer be about pay increases for increased productivity. The only option under the government’s laws are take the 2.5%, or sell off conditions and jobs for a bigger increase,’ he said.

Chris Bromley, a NUM at the Riverside Centre and on the ADHC Log of Claims Committee, says the money is a secondary issue to the loss of rights.

‘We don’t want our negotiating power taken away. A good relationship between unions and the Government can be taken away with the stroke of a pen,’ he said.

Chris says his worry is that it’s just the beginning.

‘There’s no right of appeal, nor a right to arbitration. The worry is: what’s next? Penalty rates? The erosion of everything unions have fought for?

Chris says it is baffling that the O’Farrell Government is pursuing these policies considering the robust nature of the Australian economy.

‘It’s terrible that this could happen in such a rich country as Australia. Australia was lucky to come out of the GFC so well. We’re the survivors of the economic downturn. Now public sector workers are being punished. O’Farrell can just say, “This will happen”. Workers’ rights are been taken away, there will be no comeback and no independent umpire.’

Any wage gap that opens up with the Public Health System will have consequences for ADHC, says Chris.

‘We’re finding it difficult to attract professionals now. We’re screaming out for RNs and ENs. With the increasing gap in wages and the financial situation it will make more sense to go and work in the Public Health System not ADHC, which will make the situation even worse.’

Members working for ADHC are conducting meetings to discuss recommendations from the Log of Claims committee.

Vox pops:

‘There’s no right of appeal, nor a right to arbitration. The worry is: what’s next?’

Chris Bromley, NUM at the Riverside Centre.

‘The ADHC negotiations are a preview of what all public sector nurses can expect from the Government’s wage policy now enshrined in law.’

NSWNA Secretary Brett Holmes.