Great win for aged care – July 2010

Good win in aged care highlights the importance of fair workplace laws.

2010 has been a good year for aged care nurses. The latest success has been the adoption of a model template agreement with good wage increases and more rights for nurses by 26 for-profit aged care employers (see p.20). This is a great advance for nurses working in aged care. It is a reward for a lot of hard work by our members working for these companies and builds on our achievements in the not-for-profit sector.

Our attention will now turn to extending these gains to other for-profit employers.

This win highlights the benefits of the laws that the Federal Government introduced to replace WorkChoices. During the life of the Howard government wages and conditions in the for-profit sector slipped behind as employers refused to come to the table. Now there is an obligation for them to bargain in good faith. This has created the environment for us to achieve this win.

With the ascension of Julia Gillard as Prime Minister it is likely we will have a Federal election in the very near future. While the issue of workplace laws is not as prominent in the public domain as it was in the last election, it remains of critical importance to nurses’ rights at work.

The choice between the main parties on workplace laws remains as stark as it ever was. Tony Abbott is still committed to the key elements of WorkChoices couched in terms of increased workplace flexibility previously achieved by AWAs and weak unfair dismissal laws. He does not hide his strong antipathy to the role of unions.

While we have had cause to lock horns with Julia Gillard over some aspects of the new system, we have to acknowledge that she has been the architect of a much fairer set of workplace laws that helps us to deliver better wages and conditions for nurses.

Our campaign for ratios moves forward
Achieving better wages and mandated nurse-to-patient ratios for public hospital nurses will be something that will occupy us for the rest of this year. Achieving ratios is a very serious challenge we have set ourselves.

We have been meticulous in drafting this facet of our claim with solid empirical research from academics and broad consultation with nursing experts. It now goes out to the wider membership in our public hospitals for feedback.

I would urge nurses in the public health system to familiarise themselves with the details of our ratios claim during these information sessions and prepare for a spirited campaign to win them.
Meanwhile, we have conducted several negotiations with NSW Health on other elements of our claim.

Nurses stand to gain from the RSPT
In this issue of The Lamp we also look at the controversial Resource Super Profits Tax (see p.24). On the face of it this issue may seem remote from nurses’ everyday issues. It is not.

The inadequacy of retirement incomes for nurses is an issue of great importance to the NSWNA. According to First State Super the average superannuation account balance for a 47-year-old woman working in the health sector is between $44,000 and $47,000. The latest figures Australia-wide reveal the average superannuation payout for a woman is $63,000.

This is about a seventh of what the experts say is necessary for a comfortable retirement income. The Federal Government has introduced several measures that will help to improve this situation but they do need to be funded.

It is important that nurses understand the full implications of the campaign waged against the tax. The mining companies should be paying more tax on their windfall profits and if they do, nurses will benefit from it.