Aged care nurses vote on pay increase

“We hope the DPG agreement will demonstrate that other aged care providers should follow suit.”
— Brett Holmes

Labor’s aged care reforms passed through federal Parliament in late June, clearing the way for aged care staff to receive supplementary wage increases worth $1.2 billion. Domain Principal Group is the first provider to negotiate an enterprise agreement including the higher pay rates.

Aged care nurses at Domain Principal Group (DPG) will be among the first to get wage increases under the federal Labor government’s Workforce Supplement.

The NSWNMA was on the point of reaching enterprise agreements with DPG and other aged care providers as The Lamp went to press.

DPG nurses at 28 nursing homes in NSW were voting on their agreement in a secret ballot at press time.

Aged care workers must be covered by an enterprise agreement in order to be eligible for the Workforce Supplement, which pays an additional annual wage increase on top of any increase paid by the employer. Employer-funded increases cannot be less than 2.75% per year.

The additional government-funded increases are:

1 July 2013 – 1%

1 July 2014 – 1%

1 July 2015 – 1%

1 July 2016 – 0.5%

NSWNMA General Secretary Brett Holmes said DPG had negotiated a new, three-year enterprise agreement including wage increases of 2.75% plus the 1% Workforce Supplement on 1 July 2013, 1 July 2014 and 1 July 2015.

Brett said if a new federal government decided to withdraw the Workforce Supplement funding after the first year, DPG had agreed to fund a 3% increase in the second and third years of the agreement.

The NSWNMA delegate at DPG’s Bathurst nursing home, Desiree Pearson, said nurses were pleased to have gained a fair pay rise without having had to trade off any conditions.

“The new agreement should help us to retain staff because it puts us closer to public hospital pay rates,” Desiree said.

“The Workforce Supplement is a great initiative from the federal government and we are happy that DPG is the first employer in NSW to sign up to it.”

DPG managing director Gary Barnier wrote in the company gazette: “We believe the reform package will deliver good care outcomes and choice of accommodation to consumers, whilst ensuring the viability of providers.”

NSWNMA and Uniting Care which operates more than 50 nursing homes in NSW are negotiating a one-year agreement including a wage increase of 2.75% plus the 1% Workforce Supplement backdated to 1 July 2013.

An NSWNMA officer and local nurses have been negotiating the new Uniting Care enterprise agreement.

Ian Walker, an Assistant in Nursing at Uniting Care’s Caroona Marima facility at Goonellabah on the NSW north coast, represented local NSWNMA members in negotiations with Uniting Care.

Ian said negotiations had gone well and had met with a generally positive response from NSWNMA members on the north coast.

“The Workforce Supplement is a welcome step from the government – it’s the right way to go,” he said.

“If we get all four increases paid to 2016 it will be a better outcome for aged care staff everywhere.”

Brett Holmes said some aged care employer organisations continue to oppose the new model of government funding and are delaying negotiations on applying the Workforce Supplement.

He called on employer groups not to stand in the way of $1.2 billion in government funding for higher wages, better training and more rewarding career pathways.

“We hope the DPG agreement will demonstrate that other aged care providers should follow suit.

“I think they are hoping an Abbott-led government would remove the requirement to tie funding to wages,” he said.