Nurses at Australia’s iconic Royal District Nursing Service are taking protected industrial action in a push for better pay and entitlements.
More than 800 nurses at Australia’s oldest and largest provider of home nursing and health care services are wearing Respect Our Work campaign t-shirts to work and enforcing bans, including clerical and administrative work linked to funding, non-critical client assessments and refusing deployment between RDNS centres.
The action has been designed to impact on RDNS financially, amid claims the State Government is underfunding the service.
Nurses have stressed existing RDNS clients and urgent clients will continue to receive care but nurses have not ruled out upping the bans to four-hour work stoppages and bans on non-urgent call outs and non-urgent admissions and
The action comes after 11 months of negotiations failed to secure a new agreement.
Nurses working at 20 RDNS centres across Victoria, spanning Melbourne, Ballarat, Geelong, Queenscliff, Wodonga and Wangaratta to the Macedon Ranges, are lobbying for parity with public sector hospital nurses’ and midwives’ wages and allowances.
The push includes a 2.5 per cent pay rise per annum over the proposed four-year agreement, back-paid to March, and a $1000 professional development allowance in the first year with $900 for subsequent years.
RDNS has matched the pay rise but has offered allowances of up to $700 with conditions.
The Australian Nursing Federation Vic Branch states the organisation’s plans to implement the pay rise once it’s been formally approved through the Australian Electoral Commission and Fair Work Australia would result in delays and leave some nurses out of pocket at least $10,000.
The union is also fighting to maintain current entitlements including sick leave and carers leave and demanding better staffing arrangements.
ANF Vic Branch assistant secretary Pip Carew said nurses are taking action as a last resort.
“RDNS nurses are very proud of this iconic community nursing service because it has a reputation for skilled and experienced nurses who care for patients recently discharged from hospital, people with chronic and terminal illnesses and homeless people,” she said.
“They’re very concerned that if their conditions are reduced, if their workloads are not addressed and if they’re paid significantly less than hospital nurses then RDNS will very quickly have a serious nurse shortage of its own making.”
RDNS chief executive officer Steve Muggleton said the action was disappointing.
“We have offered 2.5 per cent and we are very close to resolving a range of other demands - but it’s got to be said we’re working through these issues in extremely challenging economic times, not only for RDNS but also for the state and federal governments and the private and public sectors across Australia,” he said.
“I’m confident that the remaining couple of issues can be resolved as we continue to negotiate in good faith with the union.”
Read the union's resolution here.