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Protected industrial action ballot to proceed at Bolton Clarke

Protected industrial action ballot to proceed at Bolton Clarke

ANMF has lodged an application for a Protected Industrial Action Ballot in the Fair Work Commission (FWC) for our 1700 members at Bolton Clarke.

For many, many months, ANMF has been bargaining for a new enterprise agreement in Victoria – to bring three expired enterprise agreements, covering around 4500 employees, into a single EBA. Those EBAs are the:

  • Royal District Nursing Service (RDNS) EA, which covers about 500 long-term members in the At Home Services side of Bolton Clarke
  • The RSL Care Limited EA – a Queensland agreement forced on At Home Services employees and which now covers about 1300 employees in At Home Services
  • The Bolton Clarke Allity EA, which covers about 2700 employees in the residential care side of the business – in 16 facilities acquired from Allity and six facilities from McKenzie.

Consolidating the three agreements is challenging, given that the RDNS EA and then Allity EA have superior conditions to the RSL Care EA, which is based on the relevant modern Awards.

Protected action ballots give members an opportunity to vote on whether they want to initiate protected industrial action. ANMF urges members to vote ‘YES’ to approve/authorise the taking of the protected industrial action listed in the question. We need to send a strong message to Bolton Clarke. To be valid we must get at least 50 per cent of our members to vote in the ballot, and 50 per cent plus 1 must vote Yes to approve taking protected industrial action.

The ballot voting dates are to be determined but will likely be between 17 and 28 June. Bolton Clarke members should look out for the link to your vote, which will be in an email from the independent ballot agent VERO. It will be sent to your personal and work email.

Members will first receive a unique login/pin prior to the vote opening. You will use that login/pin when you receive your vote. There will be multiple reminders by email and sms.

To be eligible to vote for protected industrial action, Bolton Clarke members should login to the member portal to check the contact details we have on file, and to update them if required. You must also ensure that your employer has the same correct details. Find out more.

Why are we doing this?

Because members are frustrated and angry that Bolton Clarke is taking so long to put a decent wages offer on the table and to offer conditions consistent with Victorian standards – both in the context of private aged care and the public sector comparators.

ANMF last met with Bolton Clarke representatives on 16 May to hear their offer in relation to wages and conditions. In a number of important respects what they proposed was not an adequate, nor complete offer.

  1. It did not include a wage offer. Bolton Clarke say they will make a wage offer in mid-June. They claim they can’t make any wages offer while the Aged Care Work Value case is being finalised and the Annual Wage Review applying to all Awards is unknown. We reject that. Bolton Clarke knows where their RDNS/RSL/Allity rates sit against other private aged care providers and the public sector. Generally, those rates are lower than the best providers (Baptcare, Calvary, Blue Cross, Arcare etc.) and much lower than aged care, HITH/PAC and District Nursing rates in the public sector.
  2. The classification structure proposed was not fit for purpose, especially in relation to nurses. On 31 May, we received an updated classification structure. It is better but not perfect, and still doesn’t have any wage rates attached. Bolton Clarke has now included a District Nurse Advanced level and also an Enrolled Nurse Advanced for At Home Services – roles they had refused to include previously. They have also split their proposed RN Level 3 into two to provide more flexibility for manager roles such as DN Specialised (LAT Managers). We still need to assess and clarify a number of aspects of the proposed structure.
  3. The items offered by Bolton Clarke are largely matters that are already in the Bolton Clarke (Allity) EA 2022. There are few improvements compared to aged care generally in Victoria but quite a number of the items offered are a lower standard than conditions contained in the expired RDNS EA – e.g. professional development leave, personal leave. Other items in the RDNS and Allity EAs have simply been omitted, including paid emergency services leave and blood donor leave, staffing provisions and study leave. We need to ensure that all staff stick together to protect the best standards possible. All negotiation is about compromise. However, our aim is to maximise the improvements and minimise the losses for our different groups of members in Bolton Clarke.
  4. The Allity EA doesn’t align with Victorian (pre-reform) aged care sector standards. The Allity EA has been largely ‘rolled over’ in the past five to six years with modest wages increases but very few improvements to conditions, meaning it has fallen behind the better enterprise agreements in the sector. Allity wage rates are at the lower end for large aged care networks (largely because the increases over recent years have been 1.5% or 2% per year and not the standard 2.5% or 2.75%).

There are some positives. The offer includes:

  • 10 weeks of paid parental leave (a significant increase for Allity employees)
  • 15 days of paid family and domestic violence leave (the National Employment Standard for every worker is 10 days); and
  • access to Long Service leave will be from seven years (currently for RDNS and RSL employee’s access is at 10 years).

Bolton Clarke has also moved from the Award standard of 10 days personal leave to the 16 days in the current Allity EA (plus a pooled personal leave fund for serious injury/illness). This is a step forward for the 1200+RSL EA-covered employees with only 10 days leave, but a reduction for over 1000 RDNS and McKenzie employees who currently have 19 and 21 days a year respectively.

The improvements are not sufficient at this stage. We still have a number of claims outstanding in relation to even these areas of improvement (such as recognition of unpaid leave counting as service for accrual of long service leave or payment of super on unpaid parental leave).

So there is a considerable way to go with negotiations on conditions and we haven’t even started on wages.

Understandably, members took the decision in well-attended meetings to proceed to a protected industrial action ballot. In the likely event that any offer on wages is inadequate, members will need to exercise the right to take lawful industrial action to put pressure on their employer. Bolton Clarke members would then start to take that protected action in early July (after giving the required notice to Bolton Clarke).