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Government’s seriously inadequate EBA offer will fail to stop the nursing and midwifery casualisation crunch

Government’s seriously inadequate EBA offer will fail to stop the nursing and midwifery casualisation crunch

Victorian public sector nurses and midwives have directed the Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation (Victorian Branch) to apply for a protected industrial action ballot in the Fair Work Commission after unanimously rejecting the Allan Government’s ‘seriously inadequate’ wages and conditions offer.

More than 1500 members attended a statewide meeting on 21 March to hear a progress report on their enterprise agreement negotiations (EBA). The Melbourne meeting, based at the ANMF (Vic Branch) Carson Conference Centre, was streamed to venues in Ballarat, Bendigo, Geelong, Mildura, Shepparton, Traralgon and Warrnambool.

Members were supportive of ANMF and the Victorian Government’s progress on non-cost EBA items but directed their union to continue negotiations given the total lack of progress on any cost claims that are designed to address the systemic and increasing casualisation of the workforce.

ANMF is negotiating the 2024-28 public sector nurses and midwives enterprise agreement, on behalf of 60,000 members working in public acute and aged care services and stand-alone community health centres. The 2020-24 agreement expires on 30 April.

Negotiations are between the ANMF (Vic Branch) and the employers’ representative the Victorian Hospitals’ Industrial Association and are overseen by the Department of Health. There have been 23 full-day meetings since negotiations began in late October 2023.

Nursing and Midwifery Board of Australia registration figures show net growth of more than 16,000 Victorian nurses and midwives over the last five years. While the workforce has increased, filling rosters remains challenging because nurses and midwives are reducing their hours and moving from permanent to casual employment.

ANMF members are seeking a range of claims designed to retain, recruit and rebuild our early career and experienced nurses and midwives.

About 30 per cent of a nurse or midwife’s take-home pay comprises allowances above the base rate. ANMF is claiming about 15 new or improved financial incentives to reward working additional permanent hours and unpopular shifts, and to retain a permanent workforce. ANMF is also seeking the introduction of financial disincentives for unpopular employer rostering practices such as redeployment, excessive reliance on overtime and missed meal breaks. Many of the claims, developed and endorsed by ANMF workplace delegates, would only flow to permanent staff.

The ANMF members’ claim does not specify a percentage wage claim, but it does seek that wages and allowances recognise the government’s wages policy, and at the same time address issues such as gender equity, cost of living, retention, increasing permanent employment, interstate/territory competitiveness and other considerations.

The Allan Government has offered an annual three per cent wage increase over four years plus a cash payment of approximately $1500 payment per full-time staff and pro-rata for part-time.

ANMF (Vic Branch) Secretary Lisa Fitzpatrick said: ‘The Allan Government’s one-size-does-not-fit-all wages policy will fail the Victorian health system and fail the Victorian community because it will fail to reverse the expensive and increasing casualisation of Victoria’s nursing and midwifery workforce.

‘Our nursing and midwifery workforce is at a critical juncture and it’s not unlike the situation at the end of the 1990s caused by the Kennett Government making nurses redundant.

‘Today, work intensification and unpopular employer rostering practices such as redeployment and constant management requests to work additional shifts and overtime mean nurses and midwives are moving from permanent to casual so they can control their hours,’ she said.

‘Nurses and midwives are asking their employers to listen to them, to acknowledge what’s happened over the last five years of COVID and to implement cost-effective initiatives that will retain and recruit early career and experienced staff and rebuild the permanent workforce,’ Ms Fitzpatrick said.

ANMF will make an application for a protected industrial action ballot in the Fair Work Commission in the coming days.

‘ANMF members have taken protected industrial action against Labor and Liberal state governments in 1997, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2004, 2007, 2011-12 and 2016 as part of securing a fair enterprise agreement and they have asked for that opportunity again in 2024,’ Ms Fitzpatrick said.

‘Nurses and midwives only ever take industrial action as a last resort to protect the professions, the health system and patient care.

‘The stakes are high, and they know the outcome of this EBA must stop casualisation and deliver a permanent and sustainable workforce,’ she said.

Negotiations between the parties will continue next week.

Read the ANMF statewide public sector members resolution

Read the Victorian public sector nurses’ and midwives’ 2024 EBA log of claims: