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Public sector EBA update #22: Positive wage talks are progressing – stay unified

Public sector EBA update #22: Positive wage talks are progressing – stay unified

Positive discussions are continuing between ANMF (Vic Branch) and senior representatives from the Allan Government and the Department of Health.

The talks continue to focus on ensuring certainty in the enterprise agreement around the wage increase percentages and timing.

Our argument for an above wages policy wage increase continues to focus on the projected outcome of the Fair Work Commission (FWC) matter as it relates to the work value finding and related increased pay rates for aged care nurses.

To embed the principles of a significant gender-equity pay increase in the next enterprise agreement for all nurses and midwives, with the certainty of timing and percentage that members require, ANMF is undertaking painstaking work in negotiations with government to cement the anticipated increase across all public sector nursing and midwifery classifications.

The final FWC decision on aged care nurses’ classifications and pay rates is expected soon. It will only directly impact minimum Award rates of pay. Under the Fair Work Act, only those limited number of classifications in the public sector enterprise agreement that are paid less than the Award will be entitled to the Award increase. The application of the decision could also result in public sector aged care nurses on higher rates than some public sector acute nurses.

However, public health employers will not be legally obliged to apply the work value outcome to all nurse classifications – only those that work in aged care and where they would fall below the new Nurses Award rates.

This is why ANMF is focused on cementing the anticipated increase across all public sector nursing and midwifery classifications.

While a final FWC decision would be helpful, our claim is based on a finding that the Fair Work Commission made in March 2024 and restated in the annual wage review decision of 3 June 2024. The FWC’s statements have provided ANMF with strong leverage to argue that the work of public sector nurses and midwives as a whole, has been undervalued based on gender.

The statements ANMF is relying on include:

  1. Degree-qualified nurses have been historically undervalued because minimum award rates have not properly recognised the transformation of nursing.
  2. The rates for an undergraduate degree-qualified registered nurse have never been fixed in accordance with the C10 Metals Framework Alignment Approach. Essentially this means the work value of RNs has never been measured in a manner free from gender assumptions and fairly against the skills of other workers.
  3. The proper application of the C10 Metals Framework Alignment Approach in a manner free from gender assumptions would mean a graduate RN rate (and by implication a graduate midwife) would be set at $1470.80 as a benchmark for other classifications. The current public sector 2020-24 graduate rate is $1298.60.
  4. The $1470.80 rate will increase to $1525.96 following the June 2024 FWC decision to increase the minimum award wages by 3.75 per cent.
  5. The FWC has also acknowledged its benchmark wage decision will include enrolled nurse rates.

Members can read the 15 March 2024 full decision of case [2024] FWCFB 150.

We understand members’ frustration at the length of time talks are taking, but we emphasise ANMF is making progress. We are getting closer, but we are not there yet.

ANMF elected officials are making themselves available night and day to reach a conclusion that delivers a fair wage increase over four years that values the critical work of public sector nurses and midwives.

We are calling on the government and department representatives to do the same.

Why don’t we escalate industrial action?

Escalating industrial action remains an option if talks break down.

ANMF has extended members’ legal right to take any action that is yet to commence, to the end of June. Action can continue past the end of June, but only action that commenced before the end of June.

Pulling the trigger for stage 2 or stage 3 (walk outs) industrial action will take elected officials away from positive negotiations and into the Fair Work Commission and possibly Federal Court proceedings.

ANMF and its members can and will escalate industrial action to achieve a fair outcome for nurses and midwives, their patients and clients, and the healthcare system if it becomes necessary.

While the pace is not as fast as we would like, the discussions are positive and progressing.

If the situation changes we will advise members immediately.

Is stage 1 protected industrial action having an impact?

Yes, and we encourage members to maintain stage 1 protected industrial actions.

Wearing the red campaign t-shirt, refusing redeployment and overtime and administrative bans puts pressure on your employer who put pressure on the department and the government.

Many working conditions and entitlements that public sector nurses and midwives now have – nurse/midwife patient ratios, ratio improvements, parental leave, superannuation on paid and unpaid parental leave and long service leave – were fought for by ANMF members in past campaigns and won.

These wins relied on rallies, protected and unprotected industrial action and members speaking out about their campaign by visiting politicians, writing letters to the newspapers and calling talkback radio.

Speaking out is an important action because ANMF members’ voices reach a broader audience and influence decision-makers. This kind of action is in addition to social media.

When members work together, speak out collectively and on mass and support each other – it makes your union stronger.

If your workplace has not yet organised a collective speak out action, speak with your Job Rep or ANMF Organiser.

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