Many temporary migrants know the value of union membership and are happy to join.Migrants on temporary work visas deserve the same level of union protection and service as locals, says Jocelyn Hofman, a registered nurse and NSWNMA representative at a Blue Mountains aged care facility.
Jocelyn has helped eight foreign RNs employed on 457 temporary visas to join the NSWNMA in her role as union delegate and branch secretary.
“They didn’t take much convincing to join – they already knew what a union’s role was,” she said.
“There was some initial doubt because of the cost of the joining fee, but when I explained they could pay by instalments they didn’t have any hesitation in joining.
“When I explained the services the union provides one of the RNs said, ‘Yes, I know about it because I come from a democratic country.’
“I tell them the union is their support system if they have questions about issues like wages or holidays or legal advice.
“As a union member they can ask me questions or call the NSWNMA office – the union is always there to help.”
Jocelyn is herself a migrant, from the Philippines. She settled in Australia in 1980. She said there were no language barriers to working with overseas nurses.
“Some of them need some guidance because they have not worked in aged care before, but generally they are very good nurses.
“I would encourage Australians to support these temporary migrants and make them feel welcome. It’s a big culture shock for them being away from home, especially when they haven’t got their family here.”
She said one overseas nurse told her she was anxious not to “make waves” in her Australian job because her family had mortgaged their farm to finance her time abroad.
Jocelyn agrees local nurses should have priority for jobs. However the aged care industry often has trouble recruiting locals, possibly because salaries are lower than in other branches of nursing.
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