Pay rise a welcome start

AiN Norma Bukalan said the prospect of a pay rise from this month (July) is a welcome start to her first-ever Enterprise Agreement.

Norma is the NSWNA delegate at Columbia Aged Care Services’ 52-bed Acacia Centre in Marrickville where she has worked for more than a decade, on award wages only.

She has not received a pay increase since October 2008.

Columbia has three facilities at Marrickville, Chatswood and Strathfield.

It is one of the 26 employers that are now offering the for-profit aged care sector’s first template agreement with the NSWNA.

Norma said her fellow nurses were keen to sign a petition calling on the company to join negotiations for an Enterprise Agreement.

‘When we explained what we were fighting for, straight away everyone wanted to be involved. Union membership has doubled since we started campaigning for this agreement,’ she said.

‘Everybody is concerned to get a pay increase because the prices of all necessities have been going up and up while our wages have stood still,’ she said.

‘A 4% increase this year is less than what we asked for but it will be acceptable providing it is paid in full from July 2010.

‘A pay rise was top of our list of demands and now that the Union has negotiated the template agreement for us, all the staff are asking when the pay rise will come through.’

Norma hopes an Enterprise Agreement will provide a basis for improvements across a range of areas not limited to pay.

‘The second item on our list is improving workloads. Nurses are really trying hard to cope with whatever workload is presented to them from day to day, but they are struggling.

‘When we ask management to look into getting additional staff or hours during the periods of the heaviest workloads, management comes back and says “but there are only 45 beds”.

‘They are not looking at the tasks nurses are doing, how dependent the residents are and the fact that some have higher-risk behaviour and greater care needs.

‘There is also the fact that a low-care resident is not necessarily a low-care resident all the time – they sometimes become high care when they are sick.

‘We need a way of deciding what is a reasonable workload, which takes into account the residents’ needs and behaviour, not only the number of beds,’ said Norma.

Many still missing out

Sydney aged care nurse Mariola Adams was both pleased and disappointed by the news that a group of 26 employers had become the first in the for-profit sector to agree to a template Enterprise Agreement.

Pleased, because thousands of hard-working aged care nurses will get pay increases and other benefits from this month (July) under their first ever Enterprise Agreement.

Disappointed, because her employer is yet to sign up to an Enterprise Agreement, leaving Mariola and other nurses lagging behind on award rates of pay.

‘My reaction is very mixed because my employer hasn’t signed this agreement yet,’ said Mariola, an AiN.

‘I feel happy that other people like me who work on the floor in aged care and are doing a very hard job have achieved the agreement. Those nurses will have better working conditions now. But I also feel a little bit sad that I don’t have what other nurses have.’

She hopes her employer will ‘go with the flow’ and offer staff the template Enterprise Agreement.

Mariola said nurses at her facility had signed a petition stating they would not agree to any reduction in award conditions following the introduction of the new national award.

The company responded with a pledge to maintain existing pay and conditions.