Sticking together delivers union agreement at IRT

Members tell boss they want a Union Collective Agreement; IRT agrees and drops non-union plan.

In April 2008, Illawarra Retirement Trust (IRT) approached staff announcing it would offer an Employee Collective Agreement that excluded union involvement.

After concerned members contacted the NSWNA, Assistant General Secretary Judith Kiejda met with IRT management and persuaded them to conduct a survey of staff, genuinely asking whether they wanted a Union Collective Agreement (UCA) or the Employee Collective Agreement (ECA) being offered by IRT.

NSWNA Officers also conducted work-place visits and ran a series of information sessions to ensure that members had a clear understanding of the differences between a Union Collective Agreement (UCA) and the Employee Collective Agreement (ECA) being offered by IRT management.

‘A Union Collective Agreement means that employees – supported by their union – negotiate as a group with management; whereas an ECA excludes union involvement and prevents people working together to improve their wages and conditions,’ said Judith.

Staff voted overwhelmingly in preference for a UCA:494 voted for a UCA, while only 131 nominated an ECA.

With staff clearly united in their preference for a UCA, IRT agreed to a union agreement and commenced negotiations with nurses and their union, the NSWNA and HSU.

IRT is a member of ACS (Aged and Community Services NSW) and the new agreement is based on the ACS template negotiated by ACS, the NSWNA and HSU.

The new Agreement offers nurses a 4% pay rise per annum for three years and improved conditions such as nine weeks paid maternity leave.

Judith said the agreement at IRT shows the value of being a union member and sticking together. ‘By standing together as members of a union, nurses have greater bargaining power, backed by expert advice and negotiation skills from NSWNA officials.

‘Although employers aren’t forced to bargain by law, if you stick together and show your employer that the majority of nurses want a Union Collective Agreement they will be under pressure to negotiate with nurses as a group and the NSWNA.

‘The highest paid aged care nurses in NSW are covered by Union Collective Agreements.

‘Nurses at IRT feel like they have been respected and are more likely to stay with this employer,’ said Judith.