RNs $570 worse off under Howard’s ‘fair pay’ fiasco

A public hospital RN could be $569.53 a week out of pocket if she was to lose her award entitlements by signing a typical AWA, according to an analysis by the NSWNA.

The NSWNA has used the condition of an RN 8th year from an operating theatre in a rural hospital as an example to measure the impact of losing award conditions in an AWA.

The NSWNA calculation of the AWA salary is based on the government’s ‘fair pay’ standards. The Howard Government has frequently voiced its preference for an IR system that has individual contracts as the norm.

The analysis shows the total loss of qualification allowance, evening shift and on-call allowances and penalty rates for weekends and public holidays.

Long service leave is greatly reduced as the award delivers a more generous payment than the NSW Long Service Leave Act.

Overtime for call-outs would be greatly reduced, as under an AWA a nurse will only be paid for the hours worked, not minimum overtime payable. (The NSWNA has calculated this as an average of two hours.) Under current arrangements, you are paid for four hours, irrespective of how many hours you work.

The calculations are based on two afternoon shifts per week, two weekends per month, 10 eight-hour shifts on-call per month, eight recalls per month and a public holiday per month.

Amanda Hanrahan, an RN in recovery at Orange Base Hospital, says she is less than impressed by the idea of an AWA cutting her pay by up to 30%.

‘It’s a huge amount of money to lose. For me, missing out on penalty rates for working afternoons would be terrible. It would leave a really big hole in my pay.’

‘I’m totally surprised. It’s horrific. I didn’t realise there would be such a big difference. Potentially I’d be missing out on a mortgage payment per fortnight. That’s huge.

‘If we lost that much money, nurses could end up as part of the working poor. You’d have to think: is it worth it?’

Comparison of NSW Public health system Nurses and midwives’ (State) Award and AWA, based on Fair Pay standards
Registered Nurse 8th year 

Per Week
Award Nurse AWA Nurse
Hourly Rate $29.99 $29.99
Per 38 Hour week $1,139.60 $1,139.62
Qualification allowance $15.91 $0.00
Long Service Leave* $28.36 $17.47
Evening Shift Allow $59.98 $0.00
Weekend $149.95 $0.00
Pub Holiday $23.06 $0.00
On call allowance $69.84 $0.00
Overtime for emergency recall $419.86 $179.94
Total $1,906.56 $1,337.03
Difference -$569.53

  • Comparison based on 8th year RN, Operating Theatres, Rural Base Hospital
  • Calculations based on two afternoon shifts per week, two weekends per month, 10 eight-hour shifts on call per month and a public holiday per month
  • LSL under NSW Act is less than the award.
  • The award nurse works for 40 hours a week but is paid for 38 with two hours per week paying for the ADOs. The AWA worker would be paid for 40 hours per week worked.

AWAs are insidious

NSWNA General Secretary Brett Holmes says the Association’s research should set alarm bells ringing about how WorkChoices could impact on nurses’ pay packets.

‘When you replace the rhetoric with cold hard figures, the true intentions of the government’s new laws are revealed. Nurses would be much, much worse off under the government’s preferred form of agreement – individual contracts – than they would be under a union-negotiated award,’ he said.

‘AWAs are insidious and can be packaged in a way where they look superficially attractive with higher base rates of pay than the award. But when you factor in the various allowances in awards plus wage increases gained through collective action and stack that up against an AWA over its five-year life, the figures speak for themselves.’