New members win pay rise

Pay increases are flowing to nurses at Queanbeyan Residential Care Facility after nurses set up a union branch and proved they had majority support to negotiate a better deal.

A drive to recruit more members to the NSWNMA led to the owners of the Queanbeyan Residental Care Facility agreeing to negotiate the facility’s first enterprise bargaining agreement (EBA).

Hourly pay rates have gone up by $6 for a registered nurse, $4.26 for an enrolled nurse and endorsed enrolled nurse and $1.04 for an assistant in nursing certificate 3 since the EBA came into effect.

Other benefits of the EBA include a higher casual loading, more public holidays, increased allowances and an improved classification structure. Wages and allowances will go up by another 3% in November.

The EBA replaced the nurses’ award, which sets minimum wage rates, allowances and conditions generally below industry standards.

NSWNMA branch secretary and delegate Doreen Shah says the EBA, which came into effect in February, is a big improvement on the award.

“The nurses are very happy with the EBA – they voted 83 to two in favour,” Doreen said.

A small group of nurses set up a union branch in 2012 but could not immediately muster enough support to push for an enterprise agreement.

“I got a lot of negativity when I started – people were really afraid of joining the union and taking action,” Doreen said. “They didn’t know what an EBA was and were worried about being seen to belong to union.

“We needed more information so we could educate nurses about the advantages of union membership and an enterprise agreement.

“The union officials were very helpful – they were always ready to come in and talk to nurses who had questions.

“They showed us how our pay rates and conditions compared with other homes, explained how the bargaining process works and asked us what we would like to include in the EBA,” she said. “Then they drew up a draft agreement for us to discuss and approve.”

A sister site, owned by the same company in Sutherland, Sydney, had already moved off the award onto a superior EBA.

“By 2013 nurses were more willing to listen and I started recruiting people to join the union,” Doreen said.

She said some nurses decided to join the NSWNMA because the Association provides accident insurance for nurses travelling to and from work.

In 2012 the O’Farrell Government slashed workers compensation rights, leaving nurses and midwives vulnerable if they injured themselves while going to or from work.

The Association stepped in and now provides all financial members of the Association with accident journey insurance as part of their membership.

“That made a lot of difference – it was the reason some people joined the union,” Doreen said.

After NSWNMA membership went up fourfold the nurses held a branch meeting and asked the owner to negotiate improved wages and conditions. The owner asked the branch to provide a “Majority Support Petition” to show that most staff members wanted NSWNMA to bargain on their behalf.

Within a week the branch had collected signatures from about 90% of employees and negotiations got underway in July 2013.

Doreen said nurses who were not union members were invited to come along to branch meetings, with some joining the union as a result.

She said many nurses attended branch meetings after coming off night duty or before starting work.

Nurses voted in favour of the agreement in November last year, and it was approved by Fair Work Australia in January this year.

If you want to start an NSWNMA branch contact the Association on 02 8595 1234.