Aged care pay rise

More than 26 for-profit companies adopt a breakthrough Enterprise Agreement

The NSWNA has negotiated the first ever ‘template’ Enterprise Agreement covering for-profit nursing homes in NSW.

The template agreement – so-called because it serves as a model for the whole for-profit sector – covers an initial 78 residential aged care facilities owned by 26 employers (see overleaf).

The agreement delivers pay increases above the inflation rate, protects all conditions nurses received before the recent introduction of a national award and adds some new rights.

It includes a 4% pay rise this month (July) and 3% next July plus other benefits (see box below).

The Union reached agreement in June with the Aged Care Association of Australia (ACAA) after more than three months of negotiations.

Nurses employed by more than 26 of these companies are now voting on whether or not to accept the agreement.

Meanwhile, other companies are approaching the Union about adopting the template agreement. Nurses at facilities that have not yet signed up to the deal can use the Union-negotiated template as a model to formulate a claim to be put to their employer.

The Union is also negotiating with other employers including three major for-profit chains – Domain Principal, Bupa and Riviera groups.

NSWNA General Secretary Brett Holmes said the deal with ACAA was made possible by the active involvement of nurses in the campaign.

‘Union members at many aged care facilities petitioned their employers for an agreement and showed that most staff wanted the Union to help them negotiate a secure Agreement,’ Brett said.

‘The Union has devoted a lot of resources to the aged care campaign. We have helped nurses get organised in their workplaces, establish NSWNA Branches at work, and arrange resolutions and petitions calling on management to negotiate.

‘A lot of new members have joined the Association as a result of our campaign.’

Key features of the deal

The template Enterprise Agreement runs between July 2010 and June 2012. The main wins are:

  • 4% wage increase in July 2010
  • 3% wage increase in July 2011
  • The possibility of a higher increase in 2011 if the Federal Government improves aged care funding
  • Wage-related allowances to increase in the same pattern as wages
  • Expense-related allowances to increase by the inflation rate
  • Improvements to the nursing classification structure by recognising Certificate III qualifications and a new Endorsed Enrolled Nurse classification. There is agreement to discuss further improvements before the agreement ends
  • Annual review of part-time hours to make sure that the hours nurses are contracted to work match their real hours of work
  • Casuals can ask for their jobs to be made permanent
  • An agreed process to manage workload problems
  • Improved higher duties allowance
  • Reinstatement of the in-charge of shift allowance, on call allowance and continuing education allowance and all other items lost in the transition to the new Nurses’ Award.

Bargaining the only way to get a decent pay rise

Since the Howard Government’s WorkChoices laws destroyed the award system in March 2006, bargaining directly with each employer has been the only way to get a pay rise or better conditions above the award level.

The NSWNA’s first breakthrough came in 2007 when nursing homes owned by charities and not-for-profit organisations agreed to a template for wage increases and improved working conditions.

However, employers in the for-profit sector used the WorkChoices laws to delay bargaining, which caused wages in this sector to fall further behind.

NSWNA General Secretary Brett Holmes said the Federal Labor Government’s Fair Work Act had helped to make it harder for employers to resist union-negotiated agreements.

‘We know a number of aged care employers have watched the negotiations with ACAA and now need to be persuaded to adopt an Enterprise Agreement,’ he said.

‘If your company hasn’t signed up to the deal, contact the Nurses’ Association on 1300 367 962 or 8595 1234 for assistance.’

Voting on the agreement

If your employer is one of the 26 companies represented by the ACAA in negotiations with the NSWNA, management should give nurses copies of the draft Enterprise Agreement at least seven days before you vote on the deal.

For the agreement to be approved, more than half the nurses who vote must vote in favour.

If staff vote for the draft agreement it is then submitted to Fair Work Australia (FWA) for legal approval. FWA is supposed to make sure the agreement leaves all staff better off overall.

The Union has agreed with ACAA that the first increase will be paid from the first full pay period in July 2010. If the approval process takes longer than this you are entitled to back pay.

Aged care employers that have negotiated with the NSWNA

The NSWNA and employer group ACAA negotiated the template Enterprise Agreement on behalf of the following companies:

  • Ark Health Care
  • Beecroft Nursing Home
  • Benessere Health Care
  • Clendon Care
  • Columbia Aged Care Services
  • Cook Care Group
  • Doherty & Associates
  • East West Health Care
  • Ernest Enterprises
  • Fresh Fields Aged Care
  • Greystance Services
  • Halenvy
  • Hutchison Health Care
  • Pacific Heights Nursing Home
  • Paston
  • Pathways Aged Care
  • Quinvil
  • RSL Lifecare
  • S. Antonio Da Padova Protettore Di Pogguoreale Sydney
  • Samir
  • Sir William Hudson Memorial Centre
  • St Ezekiel Moreno Limited
  • SummitCare
  • Terrigal Grosvenor
  • Thompson Health Care
  • Willows Private Nursing Home.