Safety net is full of holes

Cover story - safety net is full of holes - _MG_7364-300

Nurses from at least 33 facilities in NSW are missing out on the benefits of a union-negotiated enterprise agreement.

These nurses work under the “safety net” of the national Nurses Award – but the NSWNA believes that safety net is full of holes.

Award workers can only get a pay rise through Fair Work Australia’s national minimum wage review. This happens every year but the outcome is uncertain and not always fair.

In 2009, the highly paid members of the then Fair Pay Commission refused to grant any increase at all because of the “global financial crisis”.

This meant an effective wage cut for all workers not on an enterprise agreement – people who did nothing to cause the debt crisis and were least able to afford to make a sacrifice, were forced to do so “in the national interest”.

Award workers also lose out when the Commission awards a flat dollar, rather than a percentage, increase. An increase of, say, $15 or $20 to the weekly minimum wage may represent a 3% or 4% wage rise if you are paid the minimum wage. However, for most award workers, who get more than the minimum wage, the percentage value of such a flat dollar increase would be much less.

Assistant General Secretary of the NSWNA Judith Kiejda points out that awards are only designed to support people who don’t benefit from an enterprise agreement.

“Nurses deserve better pay and conditions than the bare minimum offered under the award system,” she says.