Despite a global pandemic and a national staffing crisis Yackandandah Health Residential Aged Care facility is refusing to participate in overdue enterprise bargaining negotiations for its nurses and personal care workers.
To make matters worse the not-for-profit aged care facility, in north-east Victoria, has indicated it wants to grandfather existing staff entitlements and slash the entitlements of any new starting nurses and personal care workers.
The Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation (Victorian Branch) has completed negotiations at more than a third of Victoria’s 620 private aged care facilities and has been attempting to start Yackandandah Health, negotiations since February 2022. None of Victoria’s private aged care facilities with new EBAs have reduced staff entitlements.
ANMF (Vic Branch) Secretary Lisa Fitzpatrick said: ‘Yackandandah Health seems to have ignored the memo about the pandemic, the royal commission, the aged care crisis, the nursing recruitment challenges and inflation.’
ANMF members, who are nurses and personal care workers, are seeking a 3.5 per cent wage rise per annum over four years, increased daily care minutes to 200 minutes per resident per day to match the aged care royal commission recommendations, improved parental, annual and professional development leave, and measures to reduce and prevent violence and aggression against nurses and carers at work.
The employer has provided employees a 2.5 per cent administrative wage increase without communicating details to staff or the ANMF. The increase is welcome but not enough and has only been applied to base rates and not allowances. It is unusual for an employer not to communicate a wage rise or fail to apply it to allowances.
While Yackandandah Health is yet to come to the negotiating table it has advised ANMF that it wants to move the entitlements of new starting nurse and personal care worker employees to the award minimums.
Nurses and carers, employed at the 77-bed facility, are dismayed at their employers’ lack of respect for them and their valuable work caring for elderly residents.
The not-for-profit aged care employer is seeking to slash sick leave by up to 11 days for new nurse or personal care worker employees. New employees will be given a maximum of ten days personal leave days per year. Existing staff receive up to 12 days in their first year, 14 days per year in years two to four, and up to 21 days per year in their fifth year of employment and beyond. The more generous entitlement ensures unwell nurses and carers do not work with vulnerable residents which saves lives during a pandemic.
Yackandandah Health also wants to halve long service leave entitlements by giving new employees three months long service leave after 15 years instead of the current six-months. The more generous long service leave is the standard for the vast majority of Victorian nurses and personal care workers and is designed to mitigate burn out.
The employer is also proposing to replace the current career structure with the Aged Care Award’s bare minimum staff structure which is another way to reduce nurses’ and carers’ wages and flatten already limited career paths.
The aged care royal commission’s final report and recommendations, handed down in March 2021, found the private and not-for-profit sector is in dire need of reform including wages that reflect the importance of nurses’ and carers’ work and increased staffing. Respectful wages and having enough staff will ensure providers can recruit and retain nurses and carers to provide safe, dignified care to elderly residents.
Ms Fitzpatrick said ‘Low wages, understaffing and inferior entitlements compared to our public health and aged care facilities has caused the private and not-for-profit aged care staffing crisis.
‘By aiming for rock bottom conditions and entitlements Yackandandah Health will find it impossible to keep its precious nurses and carers let alone attract and employ new staff.
‘This will make it difficult to provide safe and dignified care to its residents,’ Ms Fitzpatrick said.
‘ANMF understands the complexities around enterprise bargaining as the reform process takes place, but there is a pandemic and a shortage of nurses and carers.
‘Employers must still take every opportunity to show they respect their nurses and carers or they will lose them.
ANMF has given the employer’s representative, Leading Aged Care Services Australia, until Monday 8 August to clarify its employer representative role, when negotiations will start, and explain the uncommunicated wage increase and clarify Yackandandah Health’s position on previous commitments to improve conditions.
Yackandandah Health Chief Executive Officer Andrea O’Neill has responded saying she was on annual leave and will respond by Friday 12 August.
ANMF will meet with members next following Yackandandah Health’s response to decide next steps.
ANMF remains available to start enterprise negotiations to improve wages and conditions and ensure Yackandandah can retain and increase its workforce during a global pandemic and the implementation of national aged care reforms.
The Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation (Victorian Branch) has more than 97,000 members – nurses, midwives and aged care personal care workers – across the Victorian health and aged care sectors.
Media inquiries: ANMF (Vic Branch) Robyn Asbury – M: 0417 523 252