Nurses thrilled with Riviera agreement

The Lamp November10

After an initial bumpy start, negotiations between the NSWNA and Riviera proceeded smoothly to deliver a high-quality Enterprise Agreement.

Nurses at Riveria’s 14 aged care facilities are celebrating their first Enterprise Agreement, which sees them retain all their conditions under the previous NAPSA award, as well as some extra improvements.

In addition to a 4% increase to wages and allowances in the first pay period in October 2010 and a further 3% increase in October 2011, the two-year agreement includes an optional conversion to permanent employment for long-term casuals, a process to address workload issues, and a top-up to full pay on top of the Federal scheme minimum payment for the first 10 weeks of parental leave.

Other wins, which are rare in aged care agreements, include an AiN duty allowance (a higher rate for shifts where an AiN is required to administer medications); consultation on significant change, which must occur prior to a decision being made; and a provision that guarantees nurses will receive their ordinary pay if they are suspended while an investigation into an allegation of serious and wilful misconduct happens.

NSWNA Assistant General Secretary Judith Kiejda hailed the new agreement: ‘There are some significant wins in this agreement for nurses at Riviera, including an AiN duty allowance and a process for managing workloads,’ said Judith.

After several years of trying to get Riviera to bargain, the for-profit aged care provider agreed to come to the table in December last year. The first meeting was in January 2010 and continued for the next nine months as both parties worked to reach agreement.

‘The NSWNA is pleased to finally be in a position where we can recommend a great agreement to our members,’ said Judith Kiejda. ‘The first agreement is often the most difficult to achieve and we congratulate our members for fighting for a set of pay and conditions that demonstrates their work is valued. We hope that other for-profit aged care employers that have not yet started bargaining with their staff will follow Riviera’s lead.’

Sharon Harvey, AiN and Branch Secretary at Wyong Aged Care Home, said staff are delighted with the new agreement.

‘They’ve got big grins on their faces!’ she told The Lamp. ‘Our main issue was work-loads. During the bargaining process we gave examples of unreasonable workloads and the ratios we had and how we didn’t think they were fair. We gave examples of nurses who had to work too many hours or where we were short-staffed.’

These real-life stories resulted in Riviera agreeing to the workloads clause.

‘It was frustrating at the beginning but we worked through it and came out successful at the end,’ said Sharon. ‘It was a long, hard road of negotiating initially, but once it got going it was a smooth process.’

To nurses who still do not have an Enterprise Agreement, Sharon offers the following advice:

‘Get on to the NSWNA and get an agreement. You should not be without an agreement. Make sure you join the Association. I’m proud to be a member. If I had my way I’d have every nurse in Australia become a member. You can’t do without the Union.’

As The Lamp went to press a 97% ‘in favour’ vote was announced.

Key benefits of the Agreement

  • 4% increase to wages and allowances in the first pay period in October 2010 and a further 3% increase in October 2011, with agreement length of two years.
  • Maintenance of all allowances under the NAPSA.
  • Five weeks’ annual leave for all nurses and an extra week for those who work outside the hours of 6.00am to 6.00pm Monday to Friday.
  • Casual loading increases to 21% backdated to July 2010, 22% in July 2011 and 23% in July 2012.
  • Optional conversion to permanent for long-term casuals.
  • Higher grade duties payable after two days or more.
  • Public holidays paid at 250%.
  • Process to fix workload issues.
  • AiN duty allowance: a higher rate for shifts where an AiN is required to dispense medications.
  • Optional cashing out of accrued annual leave.
  • Increased long service leave for staff with over 15 years’ service.
  • Optional cash-out of accrued sick leave.
  • Top-up to full pay on top of the Federal scheme minimum payment for the first 10 weeks of parental leave.
  • Consultation on significant change to occur prior to a definite decision being made.
  • Dispute procedure that provides an independent umpire to decide the outcome if agreement cannot be reached.
  • Provision that guarantees nurses will receive their ordinary pay if they are suspended while an investigation into an allegation of serious and wilful misconduct occurs.