A win for the aged and their carers – May 2005

Congratulations to our members in aged care for their 25% pay rise win!

Aged care members have achieved a 25% pay rise in the Industrial Relations Commission – a 6% wage increase for this year, and another 6% for next year, along with previous interim decisions.

This win was hard-fought. We had to prove the increase in work value in all categories of aged care and we did it. It is a very good achievement. But if we can improve the union presence in the sector we can achieve even more. We got this outcome with only a third of aged care employees in the union. Imagine what we could have done with everyone involved!

This win will lead to a better aged care sector. The pay rise is an important incentive for those committed to working in aged care to stay in the industry, and should encourage those who have left the sector to return.

It is a particularly good result for aged care AiNs. Employers argued throughout the case that AiNs shouldn’t get the same increase as other nurses.

The broader achievements of our campaign

There are other substantial benefits for the sector arising from our Fair Share for Aged Care campaign. Not only has there been a decent wages outcome that will make the sector more attractive to work in, but it has also led to the federal government coughing up additional money to improve conditions in nursing homes.

Our case has also led to greater transparency and accountability. Professor Bob Walker, Australia’s pre-eminent authority on accounting practices, submitted evidence on behalf of the Association that proved the capacity of aged care employers to pay. His analysis – accepted in full by the Commission – highlighted the need for better financial accounting in aged care for residents and families.

This information will now be available to government agencies and will make employers more accountable as a condition of federal government funding.

The Fair Share for Aged Care campaign will have to continue. We need to maintain pressure on the federal government for increased funding. What happens to this money should be transparent. Taxpayers money should go where it is needed; into increased quality of care rather than profits.

While there are many positives to draw from the Commission’s decision, there was one disappointing aspect – the Commission failed to see the importance of restoring parity with public hospitals. Here the Commission made a cautious decision claiming that aged care needs to be assessed separately, although it recognised the connection between pay rates in aged care and public hospitals.

Membership growth in aged care will protect us against the federal onslaught

This great result in aged care again highlights the value of the state IR system to NSW nurses. We would never have got this result in the federal arena under the current government. If the Howard government achieves its workplace objectives the next time we seek a pay rise it will be through the federal IR system.

We need to take advantage of this win to strengthen our organisation in aged care. It is important that we convince aged care nurses who are not in the union to join up. A bigger, stronger membership will be the best protection against any federal government and employers’ attacks.

This also holds true for public hospital nurses as we push for a better pay deal. Convincing our colleagues who are not members that they should join up is crucial if we are to improve the lot of NSW nurses.