After a long fight, Victorian aged care nurses and carers have notched a solid win in their dispute with health industry multinational BUPA. In September, union members across BUPA’s 26 Victorian aged care facilities started a campaign of industrial action over the terms of a new enterprise agreement. Significantly, the nurses and carers carried out a number of full shift stoppages over the course of the dispute.
As a result, in early 2018, after holding out since the agreement expired in 2016, the company was forced to make an offer that the Australian Nurses and Midwifery Federation could recommend to members. The central victories contained in the deal are an 11.25 percent wage rise over three years and an increase in Sunday penalty rates from 150 percent to 175 percent of the standard hourly rate. Workers will also get access to a dispute resolution procedure to raise workload complaints.
The pay rise is a marked improvement on BUPA’s initial offer of 2.1 percent over one year, with no other changes. In particular, the increase to penalty rates puts BUPA workers ahead of Victorian public sector nurses and highlights how an industrial strategy can protect penalty rates.
The BUPA workers’ success should serve as an inspiration to others in the aged care sector, where a reluctance to stage entire shift walk-offs has limited workers’ ability to win industrial disputes.