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Unprecedented action by Bupa nurses and carers leads to 11.5% wage increase

Photo: ANMF
Following an unprecedented strike by Bupa aged care nurses and carers, a wage increase of 11.25% over three years has been approved, along with significant improvements to workplace entitlements and workload management, under a new enterprise agreement.

Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation (Victorian Branch) Acting Secretary Paul Gilbert said staff  negotiated with Bupa Aged Care for more than 14 months, after rejecting an original offer for the new EBA of just 2.1 per cent in a one year agreement, with no other changes.

“Nurses and carers only take industrial action as a last resort, but Bupa was not listening to them and our members felt  stretched and undervalued,” said Mr Gilbert.

“Bupa’s initial offer would have kept its nurses’ and carers’ wages in the bottom 10 percent of aged care facilities.”
More than 1000 aged care nurses and carers across Victoria took part in the protected industrial action across Bupa’s 26 nursing homes in the state.

“Nurses and carers took 37 days of action, including three days of full shift strike action and a 400-strong rally outside Bupa’s Melbourne corporate headquarters, following stop work and community rallies held across the state,” said Mr Gilbert.

“ANMF members also wore ANMF red Value Recognise Reward campaign t-shirts, handed out campaign materials to residents, relatives and the community and spoke to the media as part of their campaign for improved staffing levels, skill mix and better wages and conditions.”

Along with the wage increase and backpay, the enterprise agreement also sees significant changes to entitlements, including changes to the workload clause, Sunday penalty rate, protection of accrued long service leave entitlement for employees transitioning to retirement, recognition of part-time employees' regular additional hours, ability to use personal leave as family violence leave, improved parental leave clause and improved e-learning clause.

While the ANMF is pleased with the outcome, it was also seeking better staffing levels of registered nurses, enrolled nurses and personal care workers every shift to improve resident care.

“Inadequate staffing levels in aged care has become so normalised in a profit-driven aged care sector that employers appear blind to the consequences,” said Mr Gilbert.

“Bupa nurses and carers should be so proud that their unprecedented industrial action has put a spotlight on aged care staffing numbers and is prompting people to ask 'what is a safe number of nurses and carers to look after our elderly loved ones?'

“Their action has set a new precedent for engagement in the aged care sector and sent a strong message to private aged care employers still to negotiate agreements.”

Mr Gilbert said the ANMF will keep trying to achieve safe nursing levels via an industrial instrument, however would prefer enforced minimum nursing levels in the Aged Care Act.

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Nicole Madigan

Nicole Madigan is a widely published journalist with more than 15 years experience in the media and communications industries.

Specialising in health, business, property and finance, Nicole writes regularly for numerous high-profile newspapers, magazines and online publications.

Before moving into freelance writing almost a decade ago, Nicole was an on-air reporter with Channel Nine and a newspaper journalist with News Limited.

Nicole is also the Director of content and communications agency Stella Communications (www.stellacomms.com) and a children's author.