23 April 2018 2:46 PM
It’s red t-shirt time again as ANMF (Vic Branch) embarks on its national aged care ratios campaign and the wider union movement ‘Change the Rules’ campaign.
About 200 Job Reps and Health and Safety Reps (HSR) gathered at ANMF for a breakfast briefing before joining 2000 union delegates at a meeting inside the Melbourne Town Hall on Tuesday 17 April.
At the briefing ANMF reps passed a resolution acknowledging the understaffing crisis in aged care and called on all political parties to adopt aged care ratio legislation as party policy to be introduced as a matter of urgency.
Acting Secretary Paul Gilbert gave Job Reps and HSRs a history lesson on how federal and state law changes in the 1990s contributed to the current crisis in aged care.
‘It’s just broken. The enterprise bargaining rules are broken, and the aged care laws are broken’, Mr Gilbert said.
One major change occurred when the then federal aged care minister, Bronwyn Bishop allowed residents living in low care hostels staffed primarily with nursing attendants (carers) the option of remaining in the facility as their care needs increased. This became known as ‘ageing in place’ and resulted in high care residents living in a low care facility despite a lack of appropriate nursing staffing levels.
Mr Gilbert recounted a successful Federal Court case ANMF ran against Alcheringa Hostel in Swan Hill for sacking its enrolled nurses for refusing to administer medications, which at the time would have breached both their professional obligations and the Drugs and Poisons Act.
In response the state government amended the Victoria’s Drugs and Poisons Act in 2004 removing the requirement for registered nurses to administer medications, and instead just manage them.
‘We have no legal requirement for aged care providers to provide a skill mix to meet needs of residents. The only time you hear about this is when things go wrong’, Mr Gilbert said.
Enterprise bargaining over the past thirty years has resulted in an 18-23 per cent wage gap between private and not-for-profit aged care and public hospital nurses, which previously didn’t exist.
‘Every time we get an improvement in wages in private aged care, we get a reduction of nursing hours as a consequence of it,’ Mr Gilbert said.
Members were also updated on a current dispute with Bolton Clarke, the new owner of Royal District Nursing Service (RDNS) where new district nurses are being employed under a lesser agreement negotiated in Queensland and opposed by the Queensland branch.
‘An agreement that was not voted on by a single RDNS employee, now being imposed on RDNS employees in Victoria. It’s just a classic example of the rules being broken.’
National ANMF campaign for aged care ratios
Acting Federal Secretary Annie Butler discussed the ‘More staff for aged care’ campaign featuring advertisements with a nurse, family member, carer and resident.
‘There is no better example right now of why we need to change the rules in Australia, than in aged care’, she said.
Ms Butler cited the growing community support for the campaign, including Channel 9’s Today show calling for mandated minimum ratios.
She said the campaign was aimed at politicians and will continue until the Federal election.
‘We need a safe staffing law guarantee[ing] that aged care providers use taxpayer’s money to provide proper care for our elderly by employing enough staff instead of increasing profit. So let’s change the rules and make them law.’
Community rally for ratios
International Nurses Day, Saturday 12 May 2018
11.30am – 1pm
Queens Park, Moonee Ponds
Change the Rules rally
Wednesday 9 May 2018
leave from ANMF (Vic Branch), 535 Elizabeth Street at 9.30am and walk to Trades Hall (cnr Lygon and Victoria Streets) for 10am rally