Major employers on board

Aged care nurses welcome new agreements with major aged care employers.

Aged care nurses working for UnitingCare Ageing, Presbyterian Aged Care and Salvation Army Eastern Territory Aged Care have overwhelmingly voted in favour of new Union Collective Agreements (UCAs) that protect pay and conditions in the insecure environment created by the Howard government’s WorkChoices legislation.

Around 2,000 nurses and a similar number of other staff are now protected under new UCAs negotiated between the NSWNA, Health Services Union (HSU) and these major aged care employers, including UnitingCare Ageing which employs 1,000 aged care staff at 90 facilities, making it the largest aged care provider in NSW.

Liz Graham, DoN, and Michael Rosa, AiN, at Wesley Heights Nursing Home – owned by UnitingCare Ageing – feel secure and are happy to know that their new UCA will remain in place for the next two years, until July 2009.

‘It’s a great result and it helped having management work with staff during the whole process – we felt supported,’ said Liz.

‘We feel valued and staff are more likely to stay with Uniting Care,’ she said.

The UCAs are based on the template agreement negotiated by the NSWNA, the Aged and Community Services Association (ACS) and the HSU.

‘We worked with ACS to negotiate a template agreement to establish agreement on minimum standards in an enforceable document that covers a large number of nurses working for employers who are members of ACS,’ said NSWNA General Secretary Brett Holmes.

‘These new UCAs provide a strong benchmark for agreements across the aged care sector. Other employers will be now under pressure to also come to the negotiating table,’ said Brett.

What members have won
The new UCAs preserve nurses’ existing conditions and deliver a minimum 3.5% pay increase per year.

Members will also benefit from improvements in conditions including the introduction of nine weeks’ paid maternity leave and adoption leave, and an increased rate of accumulation for long service leave after 10 years’ service.

Other improvements include:

  • Recognition and a pay scale for Endorsed Enrolled Nurses;
  • Increased entry salary for newly qualified RNs;
  • Updating the definition of an AiN with the provision for an AiN to be a team leader;
  • A requirement that RNs be given hand-over time at the beginning of their shift;
  • No overtime in unreasonable circumstances, such as when staff have family responsibilities;
  • Long-term casuals have the right to apply for their position to be made permanent.

‘The inclusion of nine weeks’ paid maternity leave is a big win. I’m also very happy AiNs are getting better recognition. The provision for AiNs to be made team leader is a professional boost and recognises our skills,’ said Michael.

Liz is also impressed that their new agreement will provide a better career path and structure for staff and promotes their professional development.

‘There is recognition for nurses doing additional study, and the pay scales for EENs have been simplified,’ she said.

The agreements with UnitingCare, The Salvation Army and Presbyterian Aged Care will also include a union delegates’ recognition clause, which gives delegates the right to meet with management and members in the workplace, and a consultation clause, which places obligation on management to consult with staff over any planned workplace changes.

Importantly, the agreements include a dispute settlement clause that allows for court arbitration when matters cannot be resolved by talks between affected members and their employer. This makes members’ conditions legally enforceable in the WorkChoices environment.