Nursing union increases aged care pressure across the country – first ever workers strike

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If you thought that negative media coverage of aged care (and by extension retirement retirement villages) will go away, think again.

Australia’s largest union with 259,000 members, the Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation (ANMF), announced on 13 October its members unanimously passed a special resolution to support a campaign targeting Bupa in Victoria.

Like the Aveo focused retirement village campaign, the ANMF is using one operator to highlight the whole sector in the media.

Last week 13 Bupa aged care homes in Victoria had three days of rolling strikes by nurses and carers across their morning or afternoon shifts on Tuesday, Thursday and Friday.

On the Wednesday 400 nurses and carers staged a rally outside Bupa’s Melbourne offices.

While part of the pressure on Bupa is because of ongoing negotiation of new enterprise agreements (commenced in July 2016 and now in mediation with Fair Work Australia), it is part of a national strategy.

ANMF’s official 13 October media release states:

As part of the campaign, Assistant Federal Secretary Annie Butler said the ANMF will publically name providers who continue to compromise the care being provided to elderly nursing home residents, as a result of inadequate staffing ratios

“Too many nurses have been sacked and thousands of care hours slashed – it’s clear that providers are putting profits before their staff and the people they care for,”

“In the lead-up to the federal election, a key component of our campaign will be to hold aged care providers to account on how they use taxpayers’ money.”

And they are working on Federal Labor.

“…the ANMF is pleased that Mr Shorten has acknowledged that we need to have the right number of nurses and skills mix and that the nursing home accreditation system must be examined, so we can stop elderly nursing home residents suffering, which has been exposed to the nation on the 7.30 Report this week, but which our members have been reporting to us for months as they increasingly struggle to cope.”

What Bill Shorten said on the 7.30 Report was:

“When it comes to aged care facilities, no question in my mind, we need to make sure we have the right number of nurses on duty, are we getting the right training for people, are we charging too much in our TAFE to train people to do this vital work in the future?

“$2 billion was cut from aged care since the Liberals have been in. There is plenty to be done there to help make sure we get better standards. I think some of the large companies, who are reaping pretty big amounts out of the aged care bonds, and large companies found to not be doing the right thing, are not the solution in aged care.”

Bupa is not alone. In QLD Blue Care and Churches of Christ have both been individually targeted by focused media local campaigns of the staff ratios pay levels.

How long will this go on for? When is the next Federal election? Excluding another double dissolution, the next election must be held between 14 August 2018 and 18 May 2019 for half of the Senators (from the States) and on or before 2 November 2019 for the House of Representatives and the Senators from the territories.

That is exactly 2 years from now.

It is also worth noting that Malcolm Turnbull has established his “cross-government” Ageing Taskforce within his Prime Minister’s Department and not in the outer ministry of  Ageing.

Yes, the media coverage of the whole ageing sector over the next two years is going to be intense.

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