Nurses and carers win wage rise

Bupa nurses.

Bupa Aged Care has agreed to a wage increase of 11.25% over three years after more than 1000 aged care nurses and carers in Victoria took part in protected industrial action affecting 26 nursing homes.

The new enterprise agreement also includes significant improvements to workplace entitlements and workload management.

Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation (ANMF) Victorian branch acting secretary Paul Gilbert said workers had negotiated with Bupa for 14 months, after rejecting an original offer of just 2.1% in a one-year agreement with no other changes.

“Nurses and carers only take industrial action as a last resort, but Bupa was not listening to them and our members felt stretched and undervalued,” Gilbert said. “Bupa’s initial offer would have kept its nurses’ and carers’ wages in the bottom 10% of aged care facilities.

“Nurses and carers took 37 days of action, including three days of full shift strike action and a 400-strong rally outside Bupa’s Melbourne corporate headquarters, following stop work and community rallies held across the state.

“ANMF members also wore red ‘Value Recognise Reward’ campaign T-shirts, handed out campaign materials to residents, relatives and the community and spoke to the media as part of their campaign for improved staffing levels, skill mix and better wages and conditions.”

The new enterprise agreement also contains significant changes to the workload clause, Sunday penalty rates, protection of accrued long service leave entitlement for employees transitioning to retirement, recognition of part-time employees' regular additional hours, ability to use personal leave as family violence leave, improved parental leave and electronic-learning clauses.

While the ANMF is pleased with the outcome, it had also sought improved staffing levels, with more registered nurses, enrolled nurses and personal care workers every shift.

“Inadequate staffing levels in aged care has become so normalised in a profit-driven aged care sector that employers appear blind to the consequences,” Gilbert said.

“Bupa nurses and carers should be proud that their unprecedented industrial action has put a spotlight on aged care staffing numbers and is prompting people to ask what is a safe number of nurses and carers to look after our elderly loved ones.

“Their action has set a new precedent for engagement in the aged care sector and sent a strong message to private aged care employers to negotiate agreements.”

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