The Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation (ANMF) has lodged an application with the Fair Work Commission (FWC) for a 25% wage boost for RNs, ENs and carers working in aged care.
Launched on 17 May, the application is seeking a 25% increase to wages under the Nurses Award for RNs, ENs and assistants in nursing working in residential and home-based care. The application also requests variation to the Aged Care Award, calling for the same 25% to be applied to the wages of personal care workers (PCWs).
Under the proposal, the hourly rate for an EN at the top of the scale would increase from $24.73 an hour to $30.93, while for an RN Level 1 pay point 8 the base rate would jump from $30.23 to $37.80 an hour.
If backed, the ANMFs application would also lift the starting weekly wage of PCWs and AINs from $877 to $1,097 per week, an increase of $28.86 an hour.
The ANMF says it made the application because current award rates do not adequately reflect the skill, responsibility and complexity of the work required to deliver safe, quality care to elderly Australians living in residential aged care or their own homes.
The union says aged care workers have long been undervalued, a reality recognised in the Final Report of the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety, where Commissioners recommended that proceedings be commenced at the FWC to rectify the problem of low wages in the aged care sector.
The ANMF acknowledges that the work of nurses and carers in other health settings is also undervalued and demands urgent change. It believes its application on behalf of aged care workers can pave the way to improving wages for all members.
What the hourly rate increase would mean for AINs and PCWs
According to the ANMF, PCWs and AINs under both awards are paid at almost identical rates. Currently a PCW or AIN with a Certificate III qualification receives $877 under the award. The ANMF application asks that this be increased to $1,097 a week, or $28.86 an hour. The application also seeks to recognise that entry level PCWs or AINs gain experience rapidly on the job and should progress to the next pay point after six months, rather than the current 12 months.
What the hourly rate increase would mean for ENs and RNs
The hourly rate for an enrolled nurse (EN) at the top of the scale would increase from $24.73 an hour to $30.93. For a registered nurse (RN) Level 1 pay point 8, the base rate would climb from $30.23 to $37.80 an hour.
If you are covered by and enterprise agreement, you cannot be paid less than the award rate
Many employees in aged care are covered by enterprise agreements and not awards. While the ANMF’s application relates to award rates only, it is important to remember that the award sets minimum safety net rates. Therefore, nurses and carers covered by enterprise agreements cannot be paid less than award rates. Further, when upcoming agreements are up for negotiation, they must result in nurses and carers being better off than they would be under the award. Thus, the ANMF’s application will benefit all members working in aged care.