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Negotiating wages and conditions: five questions private acute members ask

Negotiating wages and conditions: five questions private acute members ask

ANMF (Vic Branch) is preparing or has started negotiations for new private acute enterprise agreements. Most agreements have expired or are due to expire by the end of 2020. Here are some common questions private acute members ask about this process.

What is an enterprise agreement?

Your enterprise bargaining agreement (EBA) is one of the most important documents of your working life.

It is an agreement, between the employer and employees, outlining your wages, working conditions, career structure, allowances and entitlements. EBAs operate with the full force of the law. They are legally enforceable and if not followed by employers the court can order significant penalties against them.

EBAs are usually negotiated by unions representing their members with employers and/or their representatives.

What is a log of claims and how is it created?

A log of claims is an agreed list of improvements members would like formalised in their next agreement. The ANMF uses the log of claims to guide its negotiations with your employer.

The ANMF considers a variety of matters when drafting a log of claims, such as:

  • the motions debated and passed at the Annual Delegates Conference that request the ANMF pursue specific matters on behalf of members
  • ongoing issues the ANMF and members have experienced with enforcing the current clauses (for example improving or clarifying the wording of clauses)
  • feedback from Job Reps and members within the workplace.

ANMF uses the public sector enterprise agreement as a benchmark for all other agreements.

The ANMF has been meeting with Job Reps to develop logs of claims on behalf of members. The draft log of claims is supported by Job Reps at a meeting, currently conducted online due to restrictions related to the pandemic. The log of claims is then finalised and endorsed by the Victorian Branch Council and then circulated to members and provided to employers.

My employer has asked me to complete a representative nomination form, what do I do?

Prior to the start of negotiations, the employer is required to issue a Notice of Employee Representational Rights (NERR) to employees covered by the Agreement. The NERR is a formal requirement under the Fair Work Act 2009 and explains the employees’ right to be represented by a bargaining representative in respect of the proposed enterprise agreement. It represents the formal start of negotiations for a new enterprise agreement.

Members should note that ANMF (Vic Branch) acts as the default bargaining representative for nurses, midwives and carers and therefore, you do not need to nominate ANMF as your bargaining representative.

What happens next?

The bargaining representative — ANMF officials, and in some instances Job Reps — seek to start negotiations with the employer and if agreed, the negotiations with the employer will commence. This includes drafting the proposed new agreement. This process can take some time and at times issues can arise with difference between the parties. If a dispute does arise, the ANMF will communicate with members and discuss potential next steps such as protected industrial action.

Once drafting is finalised, the proposed agreement is circulated to all employees (including non-members) covered by the agreement with information explaining the changes.

The proposed EBA will go to a vote of all relevant employees.

If a majority of those who vote support the new EBA, an application will be made to the Fair Work Commission for its approval. Once approved, the EBA comes into operation seven days later.

Who decides if industrial action is taken?

Where there is an issue at the negotiating table members may need to consider taking protected industrial action. If this occurs all eligible ANMF members are required to participate in a secret protected action ballot to establish if the majority of members agree with this step. Industrial action may only proceed if the majority of members agree. If you vote yes, you are approving the possibility of taking action at a future time. Taking “protected” industrial action means that the action is lawful and members taking the action are protected from retribution from the employer, such as disciplinary action.

The Fair Work Act 2009 establishes a set of clear rules and obligations about how the bargaining process is to occur, including rules about industrial action, the content of enterprise agreements, and how an agreement is made and approved.