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Union’s battle with Bupa wages on

The NSW Nurses and Midwives Association (NSWNMA) have still not secured an agreed pay or staffing rise for Bupa nurses, a video released on their Facebook page shows.

The union has been negotiating with Bupa since July 14 last year.

Since then all Bupa has offered is a pay rise of 2.1 per cent, without a guarantee of fixing their staffing problems, or of commencing medication administration recognition for assistants in nursing (AiNs).

Major understaffing issues at Bupa aged care homes have left families at many of their centres, including Tumut, greatly concerned about the level of care.

According to NSWNMA General Secretary Brett Holmes, Bupa is one of the few aged care centres that does not address staffing levels in their enterprise agreements with staff.

When monitoring staffing levels last year, they found Bupa Tumut was understaffed for seven weeks in a row.

The union also said a pay rise of 2.1 per cent is not enough.

Bupa nurses currently have the 33rd highest pay rate nationwide, despite being employed by the country’s third largest aged care provider.

NSWNMA plan to continue negotiating with the healthcare giant, with the next action being a statewide phone hook-up on Wednesday, February 15.

The negotiations come at a precarious time for the aged care industry.

It’s a huge growth sector, with two million Australians to be aged over 85 by 2045, and, staggeringly, 40,000 to be aged over 100.

However, it’s also largely unregulated.

There are no mandated minimum staff-to-patient ratios; no qualification standard for AiNs, which make up 90 per cent of the aged care workforce; no pre-employment checks for the majority of the workforce, meaning that a staff member dismissed for neglect or abuse can simply start working somewhere else with their new employer being none the wiser; and no requirement for at least one registered nurse – who, unlike AiNs, are legally able to administer complex medications – to be on site.

The industry is widely low paid. An AiN working in an aged care home is paid less than a supermarket cashier.

A survey by the Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation of 2500 aged care nurses last year showed that 78 per cent of them thought current levels of staffing at their centres did not provide even an “adequate” level of care for residents.

“There are obvious staffing problems that are contributing to a dramatic decline in the standards of basic care within the aged care sector. These issues are nationwide, so something has to be done on a federal level to make sure there are at least some standards in place,” Mr Holmes said.