Get ready to campaign for pay and conditions

Immediately on gaining office the Abbott government abolished the Aged Care Supplement guaranteeing increased wages. The way forward to better pay and conditions now lies with enterprise bargaining.

The NSWNMA will soon engage employers in the charitable, religious or not-for-profit residential aged care sector to bargain for a new enterprise agreement.

We have written to Aged and Community Services (ACS) Australia – the organisation representing employers in the sector – to confirm their willingness to negotiate a new agreement.

The goal is to establish a new template enterprise agreement to take effect from July 2014. The current agreement expires at the end of June 2014.

NSWNMA General Secretary Brett Holmes says the decision by the Abbott government to abolish the aged care supplement was a “kick in the guts” for aged care workers and their residents.

Now, the way forward to better wages and conditions, that will keep trained staff in the sector, is via a new enterprise agreement, he says.

“Putting the Workforce Supplement into enterprise agreements guaranteed that government funding flowed straight into workers’ pockets, thereby helping the sector retain and attract staff,” Brett said.

“We are now working in a more hostile environment where we can expect the federal government and employers will oppose improvements in workers’ pay and conditions.

Under the previous Labor government, the $1.2 billion Workforce Supplement was allocated to wage rises of 1% per annum, over and above any other increases negotiated with employers.

Brett says aged care workers are going to have to show the same passion they have for resident care to the campaign for improved pay and conditions in the not-for-profit aged care sector.

“Enterprise bargaining still provides us with the opportunity to get pay rises and improve our conditions, if we are organised and committed to the campaign,” he said.

Have your say

Brett says the NSWNMA is setting up a Bargaining Organising Committee with representatives made up from not-for-profit aged care facilities as a vehicle for greater consultation with members.

“Every facility can get involved in consultation and activities. To be successful we need to build networks and build strength. Firstly, that involves getting as many people as possible to join the Association.

“To achieve a good outcome, to improve pay and conditions, so the sector is an attractive place that will retain staff, we need you to put your hand up and participate in the campaign.”

NSWNMA organisers have already begun making visits to members to talk about the issues. Early indication is that members are looking for pay increases to value their work and measures to enhance resident care through skills mix and career paths.

It is anticipated that negotiations on the new agreement will begin this month, with the aim to have a new agreement to put to the ballot of members and take effect in July 2014.

The not-for-profit aged care template

  • The first template agreement in the sector was negotiated with Aged and Community Services Australia in 2007 after WorkChoices legislation removed aged care from the NSW Award system.
  • The current agreement expires on 30 June 2014.
  • The current agreement covers 176 residential aged care facilities in New South Wales. The template also influences the outcomes in a significant number of other agreements.
  • It is available for employers in the not-for-profit sector to adopt.