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Nurse penalty rate cuts 'could' put patients' health at risk

10 March, 2014

Australians' health would be at risk if penalty rates and other allowances were stripped from nurses, midwives and assistants in nursing as part of the Productivity Commission's review of the Fair Work Act, the Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation (ANMF) said recently in a statement.

ANMF Federal Secretary Lee Thomas said leaked terms of reference published recently indicated the Productivity Commission Inquiry will leave no part of the current industrial relations system untouched.

"It is simply a return to WorkChoices," Thomas said.

"Australians overwhelmingly voted against WorkChoices and Mr Abbott himself made a pre-election promise of not attacking workers' wages and conditions.

"Far from being dead, buried and cremated, as Mr Abbott said, it seems WorkChoices is being resurrected under the cover of the Productivity Commission.

"Because nursing and midwifery is a 24/7 profession, nurses and midwives rely heavily on penalties and shift loadings.

"It's only fair they are compensated for working at any hour of the day or night, on weekends, public holidays and special days like Christmas. The impact of stripping away penalty rates would have the effect of up to a 25 per cent pay cut for nurses and midwives – that is unacceptable.

"That's why the current view by the federal government that penalty rates are prohibiting business is a slap in the face for Australia's nursing and midwifery workforce.

"Ultimately, with a dwindling nursing and midwifery workforce, the healthcare delivered to everyday Australians is going to suffer as a consequence."

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Jane Goodman | Monday, March 10, 2014, 3:20 PM
The average age now of a nurse in Australia is somewhere between 48 and 50 years old. There are some in their 70's still employed. At the other end of the age spectrum for this profession the attrition rate in new graduates is high. Nursing unfortunately is not the profession of choice for many young people and I can understand why for it is a tough job. As a registered nurse there are many aspects of my job that I enjoy when I know for example that how I have acted professionally has assisted a patient to a better state of well being. Working in a good nursing team is a supportive experience and one that helps us cope with difficult professional issues. Against the nice aspects of my job are the well documented stresses of my profession. To even consider cutting nurses penalty rates is an insult. We do not earn that much for all the training we have to do. I have a undergraduate and postgraduate degree plus additional other professional training. I earn about $80.000 a year before tax and that is on a rotating roster. I reckon that if there are cut backs to our really well earned salaries then I, for one, will be adding to the list of 'I was once a nurse' brigade. Perhaps I should take up lawn mowing?
Junie Chan | Tuesday, March 11, 2014, 7:50 PM
I am with you Jane and am sure the rest of the nursing workforce are too. As much as we love our job and what we do, the government needs to remember that we pay taxes.
Julie Pool | Monday, March 31, 2014, 2:08 PM
Consider your nursing sisters toiling away in the aged care sector, also on rotating shifts, and earning around $60,000pa. Away with you Tony Abbott!