Domain nurses celebrate inaugural agreement

Three years of campaigning have paid off for members at the for-profit provider Domain, with their employer offering their first ever Enterprise Agreement.

It was a long fight but a determined campaign by aged care nurses and the NSWNA has seen Domain Principal Group (DPG) finally come to the bargaining table and negotiate a three-year Enterprise Agreement with the NSWNA.

The three-year Agreement will protect all the conditions aged care nurses had under the Notional Agreement Preserving a State Award (NAPSA) (many of which would have been lost under transitional arrangements to the Modern Award from 1 July this year), adds some new rights, and includes real pay increases above the inflation rate.

Staff at the for-profit employer will receive a 3.5% increase to wages from the date they vote for the agreement and 3.7% increases in July 2011 and July 2012, with the possibility of a higher increase in 2011 if the Federal Government improves aged care funding.

Four weeks’ maternity leave and one week’s paternity leave are among the other benefits, which also include improvements to the nursing classification structure by recognising Certificate III qualifications and a new EEN classification; casuals being able to ask for their jobs to be made permanent; a process to manage workload problems; and an improved higher duties allowance.

The agreement is based on the Aged Care Association Australia (ACAA) template and was modified in the negotiations. It was negotiated by the NSWNA, the Queensland Nurses Union and the Health Services Union, and covers around 3000 staff at 28 facilities in NSW and two in Queensland, with the largest group of those employees being nurses.

Members’ involvement delivers win

NSWNA General Secretary Brett Holmes said members’ involvement with the campaign has delivered a fantastic win.

‘Hundreds of members petitioned DPG for an Agreement and showed that a majority of staff wanted an Enterprise Agreement. DPG took way too long to bargain with the Association and give staff the extra pay they deserved, but it got there in the end after a sustained campaign by aged care nurses at all the employer’s facilities.

‘The active involvement of members at local Branches in building the campaign has delivered this pay offer as well as additional benefits and is a perfect example of why it’s important not to give up and to fight for your rights at work,’ said Brett.

New NSWNA Branches, strong membership

Throughout the long campaign, two new branches (Coffs and Murwillumbah) were formed and 110 new members joined the Union, which now boasts 86% membership in some facilities across DPG. Members were active and provided input through bargaining committees, teleconferences and face-to-face meetings at the negotiations table.

Yolanda Gleeson, an RN at Tweed Heads nursing home, has been involved in the campaign since the beginning.

‘We continually petitioned management and had discussions in the workplace,’ she explained. ‘We canvassed what everyone wanted on a Branch level and held meetings in the region.’

Representatives of the NSWNA visited the Branch regularly and Yolanda stressed the importance of having the Union fight on your behalf.

‘If we didn’t have the Union, we’d probably be in a far worse position. They came out and encouraged Branches to hold meetings and discuss what was going on. Even to get Domain to the bargaining table to discuss having an Agreement was hard enough and the Union really pushed for that. If we didn’t have the NSWNA, we wouldn’t have what we have today,’ said Yolanda.

Marta Frasca, an AiN at Killarney Vale nursing home, was also part of the campaign since the very beginning. According to Marta, key to the campaign’s success was a strong Union presence at the workplace and a proactive approach by members.

‘We had lots of meetings and collected signatures for a petition. I went around with the petition and made everyone sign! You have to be very proactive. I’d say to my colleagues, “Just go in the staff room and sign, please.” The NSWNA were there for us every step of the way: they came every time we called them to ask what is going on and what is the best thing to do. They really helped us and we do need them,’ said Marta.

Marta has no hesitation in encouraging nurses at other facilities without an Enter-prise Agreement to campaign proactively for one. ‘It’s definitely worth it. The only way to go these days is to campaign and push and push and fight for our rights. We have to negotiate our wages nowadays and keep doing it and it’s the only way we’ll have wages that are fair,’ she said.

Lyn Robertson, an AiN at Endeavour Nursing Home, joined the campaign in February this year when she realised just how much she and her colleagues stood to lose if they moved to the Modern Award.

‘Under the NAPSA we had good allowances, shift loading, 11 public holidays, the right to a rostered day off for full-timers and many other conditions that we would have lost under the Modern Award, and our pay would have decreased too.  My workmates had pretty much had enough of waiting around. You want to get proper wages and conditions for the hard work you do,’ said Lyn, who enjoyed taking part in the negotiations.

‘Sitting at the bargaining table, I felt like I was positively involved in the negotiations. Although Domain took far too long to negotiate with us, once they did eventually come to the table, they were quite amicable. The Union support was very important as no one else has the time, effort and know-how to fight for what we need as nurses. Without the Union, we can’t do anything,’ said Lyn.

At the time The Lamp went to press, members were due to vote on the Agreement. If the draft agreement passes the vote, it is then submitted to Fair Work Australia for legal approval. It has been agreed that the first increase will be back paid from 1 September.

Key benefits of the agreement

  • 3.5% increase to wages from the date staff vote for the new agreement.
  • 3.7% increase to wages in July 2011.
  • 3.7% increase to wages in July 2012.
  • Agreement to run from July 2010 to June 2013.
  • The possibility of a higher increase in 2011 if the Federal Government improves aged care funding.
  • Allowances increased by 3% per year.
  • Expense-related allowances increased by inflation rate.
  • Improvements to nursing classification structure by recognising Certificate III qualifications and a new EEN Classification.
  • Four weeks’ maternity leave and one week’s paternity leave.
  • Annual review of part-time hours to make sure your contracted hours match your real hours of work.
  • Casuals may ask for their jobs to be permanent.
  • A 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 other items lost in the transition to the new Nurses Award in January 2010.
  • Recognition of the role of workplace union representatives.