Opportunity costs

Abandoned by a labour broker, Fijian nurses get help from the NSWNA.

When Ruci Kava saw an ad in the Fiji Times looking for nurses to come to Australia she saw it as an opportunity to move to greener pastures.

‘I was a senior nurse manager at a big hospital in Fiji, but the money wasn’t that great and I was attracted to coming over to Australia. I came over here so I could pay my mortgage back home,’ she told The Lamp.

The package, offered by the agency Cytech, contained better pay compared to Fiji, plus a living away from home allowance and the option to stay. Cytech promised that at the end of an initial 18-month contract there were three options: to continue with the same client or Cytech would find another facility or Ruci could go back home to Fiji.

‘I was employed as a ‘residential care officer’, a care giver, and I accepted,’ said Ruci.

When Ruci arrived with other Fijian nurses on 457 Visas, Cytech collected money from each on arrival for ‘relocation fees’.

‘I came alone and had to pay $2,000 but there were others who had kids and they had to pay more,’ she said.

‘On top of that we had to pay Cytech for accommodation and furniture. They provided us with a flat with a dinner set, a bed, and bedding. We had to pay for this out of our wages – another $970. I had to pay over $150 per fortnight until they recovered the full amount.’

Ruci, along with other Fijian nurses, was employed as a ‘residential care officer’ at Wesley Gardens Nursing Home.

‘But we were all experienced RNs in Fiji and effectively we were doing the same thing here. We had the skills and we used them for the benefit of the clients,’ she said.

Then Wesley terminated its contract with Cytech leaving the Fijian nurses in the lurch.

‘I did my full 18-month contract with Wesley. Some of the other nurses had only done four, six or eight months of their contracts and then their jobs were terminated,’ she said.

‘My expectation was that Cytech would get me another job. But they said they couldn’t do anything and I’d have to go back home.

‘The union is trying to help us out. We’re waiting to do the overseas qualified nurses assessment program at the College of Nursing. It will take seven weeks.’

Unless Ruci can change her visa status, the course will cost her another $6,000.

‘I don’t know how I’m going to make it. Two months without a job and then two months during the course without pay.

‘I’m depressed and frustrated. It’s turned out to be sour and I didn’t expect that. I’m having sleepless nights not knowing how to cope. It is inhuman to treat us like that. I now regret coming here.’