Aged care employers try to shut out union representation


Aged care nurses are warned to check the fine print of employer workplace ‘surveys’ and to be extremely wary of non-union agreements.

Nurses working in some aged care facilities are being pressured into non-union agreements that leave them exposed to significant cuts in conditions and wages. It’s not the rule of the industry but it’s a cautionary tale, as some employers try to slip through non-union agreements in aged care.

The NSWNA has received calls from concerned members confused by ambiguous surveys and misinformation from some employers attempting to slip through non-union workplace agreements.

Staff at Anglican Retirement Villages (ARV) recently voted in favour of an Employee Collective Agreement, which has eroded their pay and conditions following a confusing lead-up to the poll.

Another major aged care provider, the Illawarra Retirement Trust, is currently pushing for a non-union agreement. Principal Aged Care also refuses to respond to representations from the NSWNA.

NSWNA Assistant General Secretary Judith Kiejda said nurses working in private facilities deserved the same quality of representation and benefits as their public sector colleagues and the only way to achieve that was with a united workplace and a Union Collective Agreement (UCA).

‘Some aged care nurses are already losing their hard-won pay and conditions through dubious tactics used by some employers. Nurses struggling under busy workloads and family commitments should not be expected to have to bargain with seasoned industrial negotiators without adequate union representation,’ she said.

Members working at ARV advised the Association they had been surveyed by management in early 2008 but were not informed that this was for the purpose of a new agreement.

‘Under the continuing residue of WorkChoices, which remains in force until 2010, employers are not required to consult with staff about whether they want a UCA or a non-union agreement. We believe nurses must be offered a clear vote on which type of agreement they want and should not be simply presented with a fait accompli,’ said Judith.

After analysing ARV’s proposed agreement in May, the NSWNA identified a number of concerns including the elimination of afternoon penalty rates and the re-classification of ENs and RNs as simply ‘Care Professionals’.

The Association prepared a bulletin, advising members to vote ‘no’ and planned to distribute it at ARV facilities. Management then blocked Association access by demanding a formal Right of Entry Notice – something not previously asked for.

‘When limited access was granted to one particular workplace, management gave us an isolated room where staff didn’t usually congregate and they had to walk past the manager’s office to get there,’ said Judith.

‘The events at ARV highlight the need for strong union representation in workplace negotiations. We strongly advise all members to check with their delegates or contact the Association before voting on any workplace agreements.’