Louise $27/wk better off

Aged care nurses benefit from unions` minimum wage win

Most AiNs working in aged care will pocket a $27.36 a week pay increase and ENs and RNs an extra $22.04 from the latest minimum wage rise, won as a result of union advocacy and campaign pressure on the Howard government over its new industrial relations laws.

Overall, more than a million Australian workers will get the increase, effective from 1 December 2006.

The ACTU argued that an increase of at least $30 was needed to maintain the real wage levels of more than 1.5 million award wage workers.

Pay for low-paid workers had effectively been frozen for 18 months by the federal government after it took away the responsibility for setting the minimum wage from the Australian Industrial Relations Commission and gave it to its new Fair Pay Commission.

The decision is consistent with the union argument that there is little or no relationship between a rise in minimum wages and unemployment, an argument that had previously been accepted by the Australian Industrial Relations Commission when it had responsibility for setting the minimum wage.

ACTU Secretary Greg Combet said the announcement by the Fair Pay Commission was a setback for the Howard government and the business community who had severely criticised the ACTU for its stance.

‘This decision is a slap in the face for the Howard government and business groups like the ACCI who have tried to argue for lower pay rises for award wage workers.’

‘This decision vindicates every submission put by the ACTU to national wage cases over the past decade. In 10 years of minimum wage cases, the Liberal Party and the Howard government has never, ever supported the union movement’s claim for pay rises for the low-paid.’

Combet had strong words for Workplace Relations Minister Kevin Andrews, who welcomed the decision. ‘The Fair Pay Commission has lived up to its name,’ Andrews said.

Combet called him a hypocrite.

‘He has criticised every pay claim we have made,’ he said. ‘Last year we asked for $26 and now he welcomes $27.’

While pleased with the outcome, Combet says union criticisms of the new system that determines minimum wages still hold water.

‘The problem with the system the Government has put in place is that it is secretive, unaccountable and too susceptible to political pressure. That is why the ACTU continues to believe that minimum wages in Australia should be set by the independent Industrial Relations Commission,’ he said.

NSWNA General Secretary Brett Holmes also welcomed the increase, for aged care nurses in particular.

‘Nurses in aged care deserve this rise. We see it as another step in making aged care an attractive sector for nurses to work in,’ he said.

‘However, we can’t become complacent. This pay rise wasn’t given to us, it came through union pressure and organisation which we need to maintain if we are to retain the conditions we have and improve them.’

Union claims vindicated

The Australian Fair Pay Commission found in support of almost every proposition the ACTU has put in national wage cases over the past decade:

  • Minimum wages form part of the safety net and help to sustain the living standards of the low paid;
  • Vulnerable groups are over-represented among the low paid – including women in private sector employment – 31% rely on award minimum rates;
  • Contrary to government claims, most low-paid workers keep most of the increase awarded and do not have it sucked away in withdrawal of government benefits and allowances;
  • Solid wages growth over recent years has not been identified by the Reserve Bank as contributing to recent higher inflation;
  • Regular moderate increases in minimum wages do not cost jobs. The AFPC found that ‘increasing the minimum wage usually has a very small impact on average wages, and therefore, total employment’.

Who gets the increase?

You will get the increase if:

  • You are covered by the federal IR system and not the state system;
  • You are still working under a preserved state award such as the Nursing Home Nurses’ Award, not under a workplace agreement;
  • Your current rate of pay is below the new legal minimum.

Nursing homes Award Classification $ per week – full time

AiN Year 1 up $27.36

AiN Thereafter up $27.36

EN Year 1   up $27.36

EN Thereafter up $22.04

RN Year 1 up $22.04

RN Year 8 up $22.04