The country’s largest union, the Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation (ANMF) says new legal advice regarding the Fair Work Commission’s (FWC) recent decision on penalty rates confirms its fears that nurses and midwives working in some parts of the health and aged care sectors are also at risk of losing their penalty rates and entitlements.
The FWC has already recommended drastic cuts to Sunday and public holiday penalty rates in the retail, fast food and hospitality industries, but recent analysis by Maurice Blackburn on behalf of the ACTU, reveals that the decision could now “open the door on reducing penalty rates and loadings in other awards in the future.”
The legal findings state that “much of the reasoning relied upon in the penalty rates decision could be adopted when reviewing awards in other industries” including workers in “aged and health care (particularly non-essential care) and nursing, where it isn’t deemed to be in an ‘essential service’.”
ANMF Federal Secretary Lee Thomas said the findings were a clear warning that nurses, midwives and assistants in nurses, particularly those working in the low-paid aged care sector, were vulnerable to the loss of penalty rates.
“We’ve long been concerned that ANMF members working in so-called ‘non-essential’ services like aged care, would be next in line and now this legal advice confirms they are open to attack from the FWC,” Ms Thomas said.
“It would be absolutely devastating if they were to lose their entitlements for working on Sundays, public holidays and other unsociable hours away from their families, friends and loved ones, given that nurses and midwives rely on penalty rates for a fifth of their income.
“As the ANMF has warned, it’s our members working in aged care and non-traditional health settings who are most at risk of cuts to penalty rates. Any cuts to their income would compound the disadvantage they already experience – the majority are women, they are lower paid, with less capacity to accumulate decent superannuation savings and in many cases they are about to suffer the loss of paid parental leave (PPL) entitlements.
“Our members believe that anyone who works unsociable hours to make a contribution to our society deserves to be compensated. And more than 80% of them have clearly told us they will abandon nursing and midwifery if they lose penalty rates which is why the Prime Minister must step-up and stop cuts to penalty rates before there’s an exodus from our professions.”