Aged care employers continue to resist ANMF’s attempts to include clauses in new enterprise agreements that would protect new Federal Government funding for wages.
The Albanese Government will soon be allocating aged care employers additional funding (equivalent to a 15 per increase to Award rates) for the Fair Work Commission’s interim pay rise decision. It is estimated to cost $1.9 billion.
The new award rates begin from 30 June 2023.
Every employer will receive funding, plus on-costs, regardless of whether they pay their employees the Nurses Award or Aged Care Award rates or a higher amount under an enterprise agreement.
The Fair Work Commission announced the 15 per cent increase to award rates in February. It is an interim decision as part of the national ANMF work value case which is seeking a 25 per cent increase. Stage three later this year will determine if an additional increase should be awarded.
The 15 per cent increase applies to personal care workers, recreational/ lifestyle activities officers, nursing assistants, enrolled nurses, registered nurses, nurse practitioners working in aged care and home care workers working in aged care.
ANMF (Vic Branch) and Federal ANMF are working to ensure every cent provided by the Commonwealth gets to where it was intended to go – into your pocket, not to the bottom line of aged care employers.
What’s the issue?
The good news is that the Federal Government has committed to fully funding the wage increases and on-costs (increased penalties and loadings, superannuation, personal leave etc). It was an election commitment.
So then why is ANMF concerned?
Because all aged care employers will receive funding to increase wages by 15 per cent even if they are already paying above award wages (for example, under an enterprise agreement).
At this stage employers only need to pass on the funding to lift nurses and personal care workers wage to the new 30 June Award rate (see below).
So, if you are earning seven per cent above the award rate through your enterprise agreement rate, the employer must increase your pay by seven per cent and can keep the eight per cent difference.
Many nurses are already earning more than 15 per cent above the Award so their employer may be able to pocket all of the additional money.
ANMF wants all of the 15 per cent to be passed on to carers and nurses.
For example, the current Cert III carer rate under the Aged Care Award (Level 4) is $940.90 or $24.76 an hour. The 15 per cent increase will take that rate on 30 June to $1082 per week or $28.47. That is an increase of $3.71 per hour. ANMF wants that amount to be added to each carer’s current rate, whatever that may be. If, for example, your rate at Blue Cross is $27.69 at Wage Skill Group 6 Year 6 then we expect it to become $31.40 ($27.69 + $3.71) on 30 June. This same process would apply to RN and EN rates (see below).
Providers’ bargaining representatives have told ANMF they are waiting to see if there are any ‘rules’ that legally require employers to pass on the entire funding amount.
Some provider representatives have threatened to cancel enterprise agreements and move their employees’ wages and entitlements to the Awards. This would mean lower wages, and nurses and carers would lose up to 11 days of additional personal leave, paid parental leave and other allowances and entitlements – all hard won over years of enterprise bargaining.
These mean-spirited responses are incompatible with the industry’s rhetoric about workforce shortages.
What is ANMF doing?
ANMF (Vic Branch) is seeking a safeguard clause in aged care enterprise agreements requiring the employer to disclose the amount of taxpayer funding received for the purpose of wage increases, and obliging them to pass it all onto staff.
A number of employers have signed up to such a clause – including Vasey RSL Care and Mercy Aged Care.
In March ANMF lodged bargaining disputes in the Fair Work Commission against eight private aged care employers refusing to pass all federal funding they receive for wage increases onto their nurses and personal care workers.
Several conciliation hearings were held in March between ANMF (Vic Branch) and Lifeview (four facilities), mecwacare (15 facilities), Villa Maria Catholic Homes (VMCH – 13 facilities), VMCH Corpus Christie Aged Care Residence, Deloraine Greensborough Aged Care Facility, RALAC (Ringwood Area Lions Aged Care), Westmont Aged Care Services and Cobram Regional Care (formerly Ottrey Homes). These employers refused to include a clause in their proposed agreement.
However, with the Commission’s assistance, a memorandum of understanding containing similar principles was developed and a number including VMCH, Corpus Christi and Cobram Regional Care have signed the MOU. Other providers have so far refused.
Federal ANMF is advocating on behalf of members across the country for a strong Federal Government mechanism that ensures every cent of the wages funding makes it into the pockets of aged care personal care workers and nurses.
Meetings between providers and unions were held on 21 and 22 March in Canberra. Federal Health and Aged Care Assistant Minister Ged Kearney chaired the meetings which reached a consensus on a simple and effective mechanism (outlined above) to ensure that every carer and nurse, from Darwin to Hobart, receives all of the funding and exactly the same hourly increase on top of their current rate.
It remains to be seen if the Commonwealth will implement that recommendation in full. The details of the implementation rules should be known by early May.
What can members do?
If your employer puts an agreement out to ballot, and you have not received voting advice from ANMF – send the agreement to the ANMF via firstname.lastname@example.org for review, stating the provider and facility name. We’ll provide advice about whether it is in your best interests or not to vote for the agreement.
Please vote NO to any agreement put out to ballot unless ANMF advises you to vote YES.
Award wage increase snapshot
Under the FWC’s decision to increase award rates by 15 per cent, the award rates will increase to:
- Personal Care Worker Grade 2 (unqualified)s $28.14 per hour to $1069.40 per week, up from $24.47 per hour or $929.90
- Personal Care Worker Grade 3 (holds a relevant Certificate 3 qualification or possesses equivalent knowledge and skills) $28.47 per hour or $1082.00 per week per hour (holds a relevant Certificate 3 qualification or possesses equivalent knowledge and skills), up from $24.76 or $940.60 per week
- Personal Care Worker Grade 4 (holds a relevant Certificate IV qualification or possesses equivalent knowledge and skills) $29.40 per hour of $1118.70 per week (holds a relevant Certificate IV qualification or possesses equivalent knowledge and skills), up from $25.60 per hour or $972.80 per week
- Enrolled Nurse top rate (pay point 5 with 4 years’ experience) $30.51 per hour or $1159.40 per week, up from $26.53 per hour or $1008.10 per week
- Registered Nurse Level 1 pay point 6 (clinical nurse with 5 years’ experience -e equivalent to Grade 2 Year 5 in Vic EBAs)) $35.32 per hour, up from $30.71 per hour or $1167.00 per week
- Nurse Unit Manager or After Hours Coordinator or similar (Level 3 of the award) or similar top rate $43.77 per hour or $1663.00 per week, up from $38.06 per hour or $1446.30 per week.
The award classification examples (above) may differ slightly to those in in the enterprise agreement. For example, in our base enterprise agreements the base clinical RN is Grade 2 (Level 1 in the award) while Clinical Care Coordinators and After-Hours Coordinators are Grade 5 (Level 3 in the award). However, the award rate must be paid as a minimum. If you take Blue Cross as an example:
- a PCA with a Cert III, in the Blue Cross EBA, is at WSG 6, which attracts hourly rates of between $27.02 (Year 1) to $27.69 (Year 6) depending on years of experience. The new Award minimum hourly rate would be $28.47, an increase of only $0.78 cents per hour for someone on the current top rate, about a 2.6% wage increase. However, we are hoping that the Federal Government will ensure that providers must pass on the full $3.71 increase to the Award rate (the 15%) will be added to the current rate, making the new EBA rate $31.40.
- an EN at Pay Point 8 is currently on $31.05 per hour, the new minimum would be the award rate of $30.51, so an EN would stay on the superior EBA rate. However, we are arguing that the full $3.98 (15% increase to the award EN PP 5 rate) will be added to the current EBA rate to make a new EBA rate is $35.03.
- an RN Grade 5 51-200 beds is paid $52.03 per hour or $1977.40 per week. The new award rate would be $43.77 per hour of $1663 per week. So an RN Grade 5 would stay on the superior EBA rate. However, again we are advocating that the 15% increase to the award rate of $5.71 will be added to the current rate so the new EBA rate on 30 June becomes $57.74 per hour or $2194.10 per week.
We will provide members with more information as soon as we know the Federal Government’s rules for the implementation of the aged care work value case increases.