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."