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ANMF’s Fair Work Commission Nurses Award application

ANMF’s Fair Work Commission Nurses Award application

Paul Gilbert, ANMF (Vic Branch) Assistant Secretary

ANMF has made an application to the Fair Work Commission to increase the Nurses Award.

What is the application ANMF has made?

It is essentially an application to have the Fair Work Commission decide if the Nurses Award rates are ‘free from gender assumptions’ and properly reflect the value of nurses’ work.

Over recent decades, ANMF has run many cases to have nursing rates (we will come to midwives later) reflect the changing educational preparation of nurses, to reflect their professional status, to value the work and even to provide for ‘equal pay’ as between men and woman. But each of those cases were decided under restrictive rules that do not apply under the current law. Those restrictive rules always hindered our case which, while generating improvements, were never free of undervaluation based on gender.

Instead, it seems the Commission will compare the Nurses Award rates, or a ‘key classification’ within the Nurses Award, with other Award rates that are ‘free from gender assumption’. In simple terms, if the rate of pay for someone with a degree that has been assessed as free from gender undervaluation is more than the rate of pay for someone with a degree under the Nurses Award structure, then there is an arguable case of gender-based under valuation.

Part of our case will be to argue the rate for the key classification is undervalued, based on gender, and then argue how that changed rate should be reflected through all the Award classifications.

Who does the application apply to?

On a strictly legal basis, only those nurse and midwife members who are ‘award reliant’, i.e. who do not have an enterprise agreement applying to their employment. But wait, there’s more.

Of note, we have also realised the potential for this in our 2024 public sector EBA wage claim, where we have referenced ‘gender equity’ as one of the considerations.

What if the Award rate is higher than the EBA rate?

What was once an ‘academic question’, as all EBAs had higher rates than the Nurses Award, is no longer simply a hypothetical question.

With the award rate adjustments arising from the Fair Work Commission aged care work value case and the annual wage review combined resulting in an 21.6 per cent increase in Award rates over a matter of weeks, Award rates in aged care are already edging closer to or exceeding EBA rates.

If our case was successful, there is a possibility if not a likelihood that some Nurses Award rates would exceed some EBA rates.

Section 206 of the Fair Work Act requires that the base rate of pay under an EBA must not be less than the Nurses Award rate.

If the base rate of pay payable to the employee under the EBA (the EBA rate) is less than the base rate of pay that would be payable to the employee under the modern award (the award rate) the EBA rate becomes the same as the award rate. Basically, the award rate applies.

What about midwives?

Before the advent of direct entry midwifery, and separate registers for nurses and midwives, all midwives were also classified as nurses.

The ANMF application will, for the first time, seek to specifically include midwives in the Nurses Award and our application, if successful, would apply to both midwifery and nursing.