Bupa nurses win fair agreement

After rejecting a substandard agreement in July, members at the aged care employer have finally secured a good outcome.

Nurses working at Bupa’s 21 aged care facilities in NSW are celebrating their first Enterprise Agreement with their employer.

This Agreement contains a 3.5% pay rise per year for three years and reinstates conditions that nurses lost when they transitioned from the old NAPSA award to the Modern Award. Regained conditions include the nurses’ picnic day, 250% for working on public holidays and bigger uniform and laundry allowances. It also improves some conditions. For example, staff are now able to purchase additional annual leave and cash out part of their annual leave.

It was a hard fight to secure a fair agreement. In July members voted ‘no’ to an agreement proposed by Bupa because it contained a very low pay offer – it averaged just 2.6% per year for four years.

‘After the offer was rejected, Bupa reverted to the Modern Award conditions. This included taking away in-charge and on-call allowances and significantly reducing the laundry and clothing allowances to the rates in the Modern Award,’ said NSWNA Assistant General Secretary Judith Kiejda.

A sustained campaign by the Association, which included advertisements in metropolitan newspapers, forced the aged care employer to re-enter negotiations and finally agree to deliver fair wages and conditions to its hard-working staff.

‘We went back into negotiations after the “no” vote and ended up with a good outcome – comparable with what is happening elsewhere,’ said Judith. ‘This is a good example of why it’s important not to accept an unsatisfactory agreement from your employer. It proves that it’s worth sticking to your guns. The NSWNA negotiated hard on members’ behalf and came out with a solid, positive outcome.’

On 27 September, 98% of nurses who voted on the new agreement voted ‘yes’.

A member – who we have chosen not to name due to Bupa’s policy of prohibiting staff from speaking to the media without written consent – told The Lamp that having a local NSWNA Branch was the key to giving members at that facility a voice.

‘People weren’t aware they could have a say. They were unhappy with what was happening so joining the Union and participating in the local Branch helped them to band together,’ the member said.

‘We were very upset when Bupa made the low pay offer in July because we felt we weren’t valued. That’s demoralising because we all love our jobs and our residents, and to think we weren’t valued or appreciated was depressing and disappointing.’

Becoming active in the local Branch empowered members into believing they could create change.

‘We had teleconferences with the other Branches to keep us up-to-date with what was happening and keep us connected across all facilities. We were consulted and able to have our say,’ the member said.

The member urged other nurses who may find themselves in a similar situation to reject unsatisfactory Enterprise Agreements, and fight for fair pay and conditions.

‘If you’re in the Union, you have the numbers and that’s very important. Employers won’t listen to one person. One person raising an issue is perceived to be a nuisance but if it’s coming from the Union, employers are more inclined to listen.

‘Don’t give up and accept a sub-standard agreement. You’re selling yourself out and for what? We do a really good job and to be able to deliver care feeling that we do count is very important. I feel proud we have helped to negotiate a fair agreement for Bupa nurses.’

Key benefits of the Agreement

  • Pay increases of 3.5% per year for three years.
  • Uniform and laundry allowances reinstated from 1 September 2010 at the rate staff were receiving before they were reduced in July 2010.
  • Longstanding conditions that are not in the Nurses’ Award restored, including the picnic day public holiday; 250% payment for work performed on a public holiday (or 150% payment and an additional day’s annual leave); and on-call and in-charge allowances.
  • Allowances to be adjusted by the relevant CPI figure or by 3.5% in each year of the agreement.
  • Five weeks’ annual leave for shift workers (pro-rata for part-timers). A shift worker is defined as anyone who works outside 6am-6pm Monday to Friday. Four weeks’ annual leave for other staff.
  • Increase in loading paid to casual staff. The loading will increase from 18.3% to 19.67% in July 2010, 21% in July 2011, 22.33% in July 2012 and to 23.67% in July 2013.
  • Part-timers can request a review of their contracted hours and casuals can ask for their jobs to be made permanent.
  • Staff can purchase additional annual leave and cash out part of their annual leave entitlement.