Nurses should grab new chance for better agreement

Raj: "It is important that all of us, RNs and AiNs, join together in this campaign."
Raj: “It is important that all of us, RNs and AiNs, join together in this campaign.”

Aged care nurses stuck on basic award conditions have an opportunity to go for an enterprise agreement with guaranteed pay rises.

Registered nurse Raj Gangadharan sees the NSWNA’s current aged care campaign as a new opportunity to get higher wages and better conditions under an enterprise agreement.

Raj works at Sir Thomas Mitchell Aged Care Facility, a 125-bed nursing home in the southern Sydney suburb of Illawong.

It is one of 30 for-profit employers in NSW that still employ staff under the national Nurses Award 2010.

This award is a basic “safety net” that pays less than an enterprise agreement.

About 50 for-profit employers have replaced the award with a model enterprise agreement negotiated by the NSWNA, which guarantees annual wage rises and pays other, above-award, benefits.

“Under the Nurses Award 2010 there are no guaranteed pay rises,” Raj told The Lamp. “With an enterprise agreement we know we will get a pay rise every year and exactly how much that increase will be.

“Also, we lost some conditions when the national nurses’ award replaced the old state-based aged care award.

“If we move to an enterprise agreement we can get these conditions back.”

Under the award, the public holiday penalty rate transitions from 250% to 200% over five years (currently it is 230%). In the model enterprise agreement it remains at 250%.

The enterprise agreement also allows nurses to choose a reduced penalty rate with more annual leave – for example, to be paid a 150% penalty rate with extra annual leave.

Enterprise agreements provide an additional public holiday – the August bank holiday – and other allowances not in the award, such as the on-call allowance.

Raj says aged care nurses should support the union campaign to narrow the gap between private sector and public sector pay.

“All the nurses here know that public sector pay is much higher and there is a risk of staff leaving the aged care sector for public hospital jobs.

“It is important that all of us, RNs and AiNs, join together in this campaign so we can move towards equal pay for equal jobs.”

Raj also wants the NSWNA to do more to explain the aims of the campaign and encourage nurses to support it.

“We need more frequent visits from union representatives and more information about what the union is doing,” he said. “This will help more people to get involved in the union.

“RNs need to take the lead in their workplace to explain things to workers with a lower level of education and recent migrants, who sometimes do not understand the industry and the profession.”