Scalabrini Nurses Celebrate New Agreement

After several years of trying to negotiate with Scalabrini Village, the NSWNA has secured an agreement that includes a 4% pay rise.

Members at aged care employer Scalabrini Village Ltd are celebrating a new Enterprise Agreement that vastly improves nurses’ wages and conditions.

A new classification structure means all nurses will get at least a 4% wage increase per year from 1 July 2011, 1 July 2012 and 1 July 2013, with many classifications securing a higher pay increase in the first year.

The new classification structure in the agreement recognises nurses’ qualifications and experience in title. New positions included in the proposed agreement are AiN Certificate III; AiN Certificate IV for those required to dispense medications; EEN with medication endorsement; EN without medication endorsement; Quality Assistant (AiN); Quality Officer (EN); Quality Coordinator (RN); and Nurse Practitioner.

The RN structure is compressed to five levels to attract more RNs and encourage them to stay at Scalabrini beyond their first year.

Nine weeks’ paid parental leave, an increase in casual loading, and a workloads management clause were among the other conditions negotiated by the NSWNA.

‘This is an excellent outcome and a good example of members pulling together to achieve a solid agreement that sees aged care nurses recognised and valued,’ said NSWNA General Secretary Brett Holmes.

‘These nurses have been campaigning for over eight years to update their agreement and lock in new guaranteed pay rises and improved conditions. This was very difficult during the WorkChoices years as the laws did not require the employer to bargain even if it could be proved that a majority of staff wanted a collective agreement.

‘The breakthrough came after a long and determined campaign by NSWNA members at each facility, the introduction of the Fair Work Act and the Association’s capacity to demonstrate majority support for the agreement. Scalabrini continued to delay until they realised that a majority of nurses wanted a new agreement and knew they had to sit down and negotiate with the Union.

‘Negotiations were conducted regularly and were efficient, taking just over two months. Management at Scalabrini are to be commended for finally offering fair pay and conditions to its nurses,’ said Brett.

The new agreement at the not-for-profit aged care employer covers approximately 500 staff at six facilities in NSW.

Previously, nurses at Scalabrini were employed under a NSW State Enterprise Agreement, which expired on 16 April 2003. The Agreement was linked to the Nursing Homes, &c., Nurses’ (State) Award for conditions not provided by the Agreement.

After changes in industrial relations laws last year, nurses came under the Nurses’ Award 2010.

Bargaining an empowering process

Marlene Arce, AiN at Chipping Norton
Marlene Arce, AiN at Chipping Norton

Marlene Arce, AiN at Chipping Norton, was part of the NSWNA bargaining team. She said nurses were determined to secure an agreement that put them on a par with their counterparts in aged care.‘When we realised how much people earn in other nursing homes and that we were being paid less, we knew we had to stick together and say we wanted a new agreement,’ she told The Lamp.

Although no Branch exists at Chipping Norton, Marlene and her colleagues conducted a recruitment drive to the Association. ‘I told them we have to be members of the Union otherwise we don’t count. I told them if you are a member of the Union you will be protected and supported,’ she said.

Marlene found the negotiation process empowering. ‘I found it really good because it gave me the chance to speak up and I told management about the way things were and that if they want better care for aged people you have to pay nurses better to encourage people to do the job properly. It was really worth doing this. Management were really good – they came to the party and we got a good result.

‘Staff are very pleased with the new agreement – we came together and had a good win. If you are all together, you can get results,’ said Marlene.

The new agreement was voted on in August. Of those who voted, a resounding 98.5% voted ‘yes’.

The agreement is currently awaiting approval from Fair Work Australia.