First Agreement For Nazareth House Nurses

After a tough fight, nurses at Nazareth House have won their first Enterprise Agreement.

Nazareth House nurses celebrating their win.
Nazareth House nurses celebrating their win.

After tough negotiations over nine months, aged care nurses at Nazareth House in Tamworth are celebrating their first ever Enterprise Agreement.Despite experiencing stalling tactics and one of the employer’s consultants bullying and intimidating the nurses during the process, nurses stood firm and secured a favourable agreement, which included wage increases of between 6% and 7% back paid to December 2010, and 3% and 3.5% in subsequent years.

‘This is an enormous win for nurses and a great example of the strength of having an Association branch,’ said NSWNA General Secretary Brett Holmes.

Members at Nazareth House formed their branch to assist them in negotiating for a Union Collective Agreement. However, during the negotiations, they were summoned individually by one of management’s consultants and asked to withdraw the Association as their bargaining representative.

‘We were told that the process would go a lot quicker without the Union’s involvement,’ said Helen Feebrey, EEN and Branch Delegate at Nazareth House. ‘We told them that since we didn’t have the skills to understand the details of the agreement, we wanted to stick with the Association to make sure everything went through correctly.’

The employer delayed negotiations by using three different bargaining representatives, each of whom had to be brought up to speed in the meetings.

After months of stalling by the employer, frustrated members of the Branch wrote letters to the company’s Board of Directors, and local MP Tony Windsor, who came out publicly in support of them.

‘We said we felt we were being treated unfairly, that this process had gone on for some time and there hadn’t been any proposals to get it finalised or give us a wage increase. We felt we were being penalised because we were bargaining through the Union,’ said Helen.

‘As a group of long-standing staff members – all RNs have been employed here between 10 and 22 years – we didn’t feel we were being valued. We’d given our commitment to the organisation for all those years and were loyal to them but we didn’t feel they were returning the favour.’

Shortly after the letter to the Board was delivered, management called a meeting and the agreement was finalised with a favourable pay rise and back pay.

Helen said nurses at the aged care home were thrilled at the outcome.

‘We stuck together, stood our ground and had a vision of what we wanted, and the Union helped us continually through the process. Even though it was a lengthy and frustrating process it’s good we were able to come together as a team and make it clear that we are valuable and should be recognised as such. It was very important to have a branch and to be involved with the branch.’

Nurses voted in favour of the improved Agreement offer and they now have a legally-inforceable, Fair Work Australia-approved Agreement.