New nursing award

We have a new nursing award. The draft award released by the Australian Industrial Relations Commission in January (see March Lamp) has been made with some amendments, despite the protestations of employers.

The new Award will be operational from 1 January 2010.

The Award is a national award applying to nurses other than those engaged in schools and pharmacies. The award will cover registered nurses, enrolled nurses and nursing assistants.

The new Nursing Award contains the following provisions:

  • Minimum wage rates
  • Shift and weekend penalty rates
  • Overtime provisions
  • Consultation and dispute resolution process and your right to representation
  • New definition of nursing care:
    • giving assistance to a person who, because of disability, is unable to maintain their bodily needs without frequent assistance;
    • carrying out tasks which are directly related to the maintenance of a person’s bodily needs where that person because of disability is unable to carry out those tasks for themselves; and/or
    • assisting a registered nurse.
  • Ten-hour break between shifts.
  • Five weeks annual leave for full-time nurses has been granted despite strong opposition from employer groups.

The AIRC under its new name of Fair Work Australia will have powers to make orders to ensure that no employee’s take home pay is reduced as a result of the transition onto modern Awards.

There will be other new modern Awards in the health industry such as the Aged Care Award 2010 which will cover non-nursing employees in aged care.

The new Award, combined with the Federal Government’s minimum entitlements in the new workplace laws, will provide a strong safety net for nurses.

Kerry Rodgers, NUM and NSWNA Councillor, Nepean Hospital

‘Although nurses in the Public sector have always felt somewhat protected from WorkChoices, the current economic crisis would be a perfect excuse for unscrupulous employers in the private sector, especially in aged care, to reduce nursing numbers or change to a cheaper classification of worker, which would put nurses’ jobs under threat and diminish the quality of patient care. That was a real threat under WorkChoices but the new IR laws will guarantee access to an independent umpire, which is an important safety net that ensures transparency for all workers. Nurses have a strong Union but many working in smaller companies don’t have protection. That’s why we all fought so hard via the Your Rights at Work Campaign to abolish WorkChoices. I think it’s disgraceful the Liberal Party still won’t accept the Labor government’s clear mandate to get rid of WorkChoices. The Liberals still want to rob workers of their rights.’