Aged care staff rally for better conditions 

Published: 14 June 2019 
 

Aged care staff will today rally to protest poor conditions for elderly Caboolture residents and those who care for them.
 
Queensland Nurses and Midwives’ Union (QNMU) Secretary Beth Mohle said staff at Sunnymeade Park Aged Care facility in Caboolture were angered by the lack of nurse to resident ratios and issues around annual leave for shift workers.
 
Ms Mohle said staff at the facility were currently engaged in negotiations for an Enterprise Bargaining Agreement that would outline pay and working conditions. She said Sunnymeade employees would rally outside the facility at 362-376 King Street Caboolture from 2pm.
 
“Queensland and Australian aged care is in crisis,’’ Ms Mohle said.
 
“In Australia there are no federal laws that state even one Registered Nurse must be on site at an aged care facility at any time.
 
“This is a national disgrace.
 
“I congratulate Caboolture aged care workers for taking a stand and defending the rights of elderly Queenslanders – and the valuable staff who care for them.’’
 
She said on average, aged care Registered Nurses earned on average $300 a week less than their public and private hospital counterparts. Sunnymeade staff will rally before and after their shifts and the estimated 90 residents will not be left unattended. Staff members will not be individually identified or interviewed in order to protect their ongoing employment.
 
Sunnymeade employees said they were deeply saddened to resort to public protest in order to ensure safe staff levels, adequate pay and the leave they are entitled to.
 
“Sunnymeade aged care nurses and other staff are hard-working, loyal and extremely committed to their residents,’’ one member said.
 
“We love our residents and our work which is why we stay in aged care rather than leaving to earn more money elsewhere.
 
“Our passion for the job does not mean management can continue to understaff the facility or treat us poorly. They are literally working their staff into the ground and it’s impacting the residents.
 
“On top of that, they are not allowing staff to access all their entitlements. It’s not fair or safe and that’s why Sunnymeade staff want to rally.’’
 
Staff who perform continuous shift work under the award and most enterprise agreements covering nurses employed the aged care sector are entitled to six week’s paid leave per annum. However, under the agreement covering staff performing continuous shift work at Sunnymeade, it is near impossible for staff to access this common leave entitlement. At this facility, shift workers have a very onerous requirement to work a certain number of morning, day, night and weekend shifts in order to qualify for six week’s leave.
 
The facility is a stand-alone, family-owned facility. It is one of around 400 privately-run aged care facilities between Cairns, Cloncurry and Coolangatta. There are around 2000 private aged care facilities nation-wide.
 
There are no federal, Australian laws state how the nation’s private aged care facilities must be staffed. This means it is not illegal for any Australian private aged care facilities to leave elderly residents without an RN at any time.
 
The federal government has the power to make legislative change to safeguard tens of thousands of elderly Australians but has repeatedly refused to do so.
 
A growing number of Queensland aged care staff are standing up to fight for federal laws in aged care facilities. More than 5000 Queensland community volunteers have also signed up to campaign the federal government for safe staffing laws.
 
“The Queensland Nurses and Midwives Union will not rest until safe staff levels are made law in private aged care facilities everywhere,” Ms Mohle said.
 
“Queensland nurses and midwives are determined to protect the elderly and the valuable workforce who care for them.’’
 
Concerned Queenslanders are asked to sign up with the QNMU to receive wheelie bin and bumper stickers, information, QNMU catered and attended afternoon teas and training on aged care activism to highlight and support the need for federal laws in aged care facilities. To join the campaign visit www.qnmu.org.au/RatiosForAgedCare
 
Staff issues at Sunnymeade Park Aged Care facility include:
 
  • No minimum nurse/carer-to-resident ratios
  • A shift worker definition that makes it almost impossible (by management's own admission) for workers to get their extra week's leave
  • An inadequate pay rise that doesn't reflect the hard work these nurses and carers do.

Media contact: Lou Robson - 0422 550 278