Nurses vote ‘NO’ to Bupa’s low pay offer

Bupa nurses reject sub-standard agreement.

With the support of a determined NSWNA campaign, nurses working for Bupa Care Services have stood together and rejected a low pay offer from their multi-billion-dollar employer. Staff resoundingly voted ‘no’ to a sub-standard agreement that offered wages below most of the aged care sector.

Staff at Bupa’s 21 facilities in NSW voted on the agreement last month and more than 85% of those who voted, voted against the organisation’s offer.

UK-based Bupa Care Services, which bought the facilities in 2007, presented nurses and staff with an Enterprise Agreement that offered an average 2.6% annual pay rise over four years.

This would have left Bupa’s 1,200 NSW nurses earning less than public hospital nurses and aged care nurses at most NSW for-profit and not-for-profit facilities.

Annual wage increases for most other NSW aged care nurses are averaging between 3.5% and 5.5%.

Compared to public hospital nurses, nurses at Bupa would have been earning less in June 2014, when the agreement was scheduled to expire, than the equivalent public hospital nurse has been earning since July 2009.

Nurses working for Bupa have not received a formal pay rise since 2008, when they received the national minimum wage rise granted by the Fair Pay Commission (now known as Fair Work Australia). Since then we’ve had 4% inflation.

NSWNA General Secretary Brett Holmes said the offer massively devalued its hard-working and committed aged care nurses and staff. ‘On its website, Bupa claims its staff “are caring, committed and respectful. They believe in what they do and share a passion for providing quality aged care …”. Yet Bupa failed to reciprocate this care, commitment and respect to its staff.’

The Association launched a determined campaign to support its Bupa members, including full-page ads in metropolitan, local and regional newspapers. The NSWNA strongly recommended to Bupa members that they reject the company’s low-pay agreement.

By its own admission, in 2009 Bupa recorded ‘occupancy levels of over 95% that resulted in organic revenue and surplus growth’. Bupa also boasts of its ‘effective control of staff costs’.

Brett Holmes called on the aged care employer to show its support and respect for its staff by coming to the bargaining table and negotiating an Enterprise Agreement in line with benchmarks set by the not-for-profit Aged and Community Services (ACS) and for-profit Aged Care Association of Australia (ACAA) template agreements.

‘If Bupa wants to attract and retain its “caring, committed and respectful” staff, it needs to do the right thing and offer staff a fair agreement with good wages and conditions. Good, committed staff are key to its business of delivering quality care, and these hard-working nurses deserve fair reward and recognition,’ said Brett.

‘Bupa has now responded to the NSWNA’s request to come to the bargaining table to negotiate a fair agreement. A meeting is scheduled for 3 August. NSWNA Organisers will be reporting the outcome of the meeting to members to decide the next steps.

‘Bupa Care Services prides itself on being an industry leader. Let’s hope it will show this leadership by negotiating a leading agreement that shows it values its staff, who are essential to the delivery of quality care,’ said Brett.

More employers offer ACAA agreement

In contrast to Bupa Care Services’ low pay offer,  26 employers have offered staff at 96 facilities agreements based on the ACAA template agreement negotiated with the NSWNA.

Under the ACAA agreement – which runs between July 2010 and June 2012 – nurses  will get a 4% wage increase in July 2010 and a 3% wage increase in July 2011, with the possibility of a higher increase in 2011 if the Federal Government improves aged care funding.

Nurses will also receive wage-related allowances that increase in the same pattern as wages and expense-related allowances that will improve with CPI increases, plus an improved higher duties allowance.

Bupa – the international healthcare group

Preliminary results announcement for the year ended 31 December 2009

£ (UK) m 2009 2008 Growth (%)
Revenues 6,941.4 5,923.9 17
Surplus before taxation 416.5 191.9 117
Underlying surplus before tax 428.2 413.4 4
Net cash generated from operating activities 522.3 306.5 70
Equity attributable to Bupa 3,949.1 3,587.5 10

How did the Bupa offer compare?

Classification Public Hospital nurses (per hour) Current Bupa rates (per hour) Bupa Offer (per hour) For-profit aged care sector standard (The ACAA Agreement) (per hour) Charitable aged care sector standard (over 90 employers) (per hour)
1/07/2009 1/7/2010 + 2% 1/4/2011 + 2% 1/7/2010 + 4% 1/7/2011 + 3% 1/7/2010 + 3%
RN 1st year $24.93 $21.69 $22.12 $22.57 $22.56 $23.23 $25.70
RN 8th year $35.01 $29.93 $30.53 $31.14 $31.13 $32.06 $32.56
EN 5th year $23.93 $20.87 $21.29 $21.71 $21.70 $22.35 $22.26
AiN 4th year $19.66 $17.65 $18.05 $18.41 $18.36 $18.91 $18.28