Private hospital and aged care nurses most vulnerable

While public hospital nurses retain some protection from the extremism of John Howard’s laws under their status as crown employees, aged care and private hospital nurses are afforded no such protection.

The Coalition, at both the state and federal levels, has been silent on the fate of these nurses.

Research undertaken by the NSWNA shows that nurses are much worse off under AWAs or Greenfields agreements – two important tools to lower pay and conditions available to employers under the laws, which are now beginning to appear in these sectors. They are also vulnerable to unfair dismissal without any of the protections that were available before the new laws were introduced.

Conditions slashed, pay reduced by $150 a week under AWAs

Employees at a new nursing home have been offered employment on AWAs that slash protected conditions.

  • No shift loadings;
  • No week-end penalties;
  • Reduced public holiday penalties;
  • Reduced overtime payment;
  • No additional annual leave for shift workers;
  • No on-call during meal break allowance;
  • No in-charge of facility allowance.

The NSW Industrial Relations Commission awarded a base rate of $19.58 as the appropriate rate of pay for the top of the enrolled nurse scale based on the value of their work.

The employer has offered a flat rate of $19.55 per hour and no compensation for the loss of protected conditions.

The loss of shift and weekend penalties would mean a reduction in pay on average of around 20%. That is on average almost $150 per week less for a nurse earning $743 per week.

When the employer negotiates with himself, nurses are the losers

When nurses returned to a Sydney nursing home reopening after refurbishment, they were informed that they would now be employed under a ‘greenfields agreement’, with some significantly different conditions.

A NSWNA analysis of this agreement shows that while the base pay rates are slightly higher than the rates in the Nursing Homes, &c., Nurses’ Award National Agreement Preserving a State Award (NAPSA) shift, weekend and public holiday penalty rates and overtime rates had been reduced.

A comparison based on the 7th year RN rate of $27.5158 per hour under the NAPSA and $27.9658 per hour under the greenfields agreement reveals that a 7th Year registered nurse working afternoon shifts Wednesday to Sunday now earns $135.90 less under the greenfields agreement. This is 9.3% less than their previous pay in the state system.

A nurse sacked for doing her duty and no recourse for unfair dismissal

Last year The Lamp reported on the case of Anne Woodward, a nurse unit manager at the Kapooka Health Centre near Wagga Wagga, who was sacked for voicing her concerns with her defence force supervisor about the delay of an ambulance called in to attend a suspected cardiac arrest.

This exchange led to the Australian Defence Force Health Services removing her from the base. Anne, who was technically employed by a nursing agency, RED Alliance, was given an hour to clear out her desk.

The Australian Defence Force washed its hands of responsibility for the dismissal, saying it was not the employer.

RED Alliance escaped legal action from an unfair dismissal claim as it employed less than 100 employees.