It’s time to act for better pay

Editorialmar2012March 2012

Our campaign to improve pay and conditions in for-profit aged care facilities is now well under away.

It is a big challenge and it will require commitment and determination from all our members in this area to achieve good outcomes.

There is a lot of leeway to make up.

The wage gap between aged care nurses and the public health system has been well documented. Aged care nurses in NSW earn up to $205 a week less than their colleagues in the public health system. There is a shortage of RNs working in aged care and workloads are difficult. AiNs who go to great lengths to improve their skills by obtaining Certificates III and IV are often unrewarded for that effort in their pay packets.

Over the past few years the NSWNA has committed significant resources to try and improve the lot of aged care nurses.

Our strategy has been two pronged. On the one hand we have lobbied hard to ensure the Federal Government adequately funds the sector. And we have campaigned vigorously at the workplace and continue to campaign to ensure an appropriate amount of that funding is directed towards improving the pay and conditions of aged care nurses.

We have commissioned research to underpin our campaigns, run high profile TV ads and allocated considerable organising resources.

We have had some success. The Federal Government allocated $130 million for nursing initiatives in aged care in the 2010 budget. 50,000 aged care workers became eligible for incentives to improve their skills.

The Federal Government has indicated that there are still major funding initiatives to come in aged care. It has been hard work but incrementally we are making progress.

In the not-for-profit sector effective workplace campaigning delivered a template agreement that markedly improved pay and conditions in that area of aged care.

Nurses in for-profit aged care now have their opportunity to improve pay and conditions in their facilities. The first model agreement that the NSWNA negotiated with ACAA two years ago expires at the end of June.

A log of claims was compiled, after widespread consultation, and is currently being voted on.

The preparations have been meticulous but now comes the hard part. We say it at the beginning of every pay and conditions campaign and it remains true: the quality of the outcome will depend on the participation and commitment of our members in the campaign.

It is paramount that for-profit aged care nurses talk to their colleagues and convince them how important it is to be a member of the Association and to get involved in this campaign.

We got a good result in the last round of enterprise bargaining but we want to dramatically improve on that solid foundation.

It’s time to act for better pay!

Implementation of ratios progresses

The implementation of the ratios won in our last public health system campaign continues apace. In The Lamp we have profiled some of these wards where ratios have been implemented and the feedback has been excellent.

Nurses in these wards tell us that it has made a big difference to the level and quality of care they can give.

The implementation was always going to be done in stages and we will continue to monitor that it is being done as agreed. As The Lamp goes to print the NSW government has flagged a new wave of attacks on public sector workers’ workplace rights. This includes a a new interim report commissioned by the state government that raises a direct and real threat to safe patient care in the NSW public health system.

The report recommends that the NSW Public Sector Wages Policy be amended to include a provision that workforce management policies (such as nurse to patient ratios) should not be included in industrial agreements.

We will look at this threat in more detail in next month’s Lamp.