Above: ANF assistant federal secretary, Yvonne Chaperon.
By Stephen Easton
Membership of the Australian Nursing Federation (ANF) has grown by over ten per cent in the past year, bringing the total to more than 200,000 registered and enrolled nurses, midwives, assistants in nursing and students.
The ANF is now one of the fastest-growing unions in Australia, according to a statement released by the union this week.
ANF federal secretary, Lee Thomas, said there had been “unprecedented growth” in the union’s membership across all sectors, including aged care, the hospital system as well as primary health and community care, although the union’s assistant federal secretary was unable to supply figures from previous years for comparison.
“We thank all of our existing ANF members and welcome all our new members, which includes registered and enrolled nurses, midwives, assistants in nursing and students,” Ms Thomas said.
“Our membership numbers now clearly put ANF front and centre of the health unions and a major stakeholder in the health, aged care and the industrial and professional arenas.
“We will continue to be a force to be reckoned with.”
The union has been a keen participant in the Productivity Commission’s (PC) consultation process for the report Caring for Older Australians, and has called for urgent reform of the aged care sector over the past year as part of its ‘Because We Care‘ campaign.
ANF assistant federal secretary, Yvonne Chaperon, said the union has experienced consistent growth across the country over many years, but campaigning for aged care nurses was likely to have had something to do with the rapid growth in members over the last year.
“I think [the aged care campaign] has played a part in it of course, and our campaign has been very successful,” she said. “We’ve been running it for over two years now; what we’re trying to do is close the wage gap for registered and enrolled nurses and assistants in nursing, so their wage is on the same level as nurses working the public hospital system,”
“We have also been campaigning to get a better workload and skills mix in aged care. We need to see minimum numbers of nursing hours – 4.5 nursing hours per resident, per day. By providing the 4.5 hours, we’ll see a better workload.”
To deliver the best quality care outcomes, the ANF also wants an improved skills mix between registered nurses (RNs), enrolled nurses (ENs) and assistants-in-nursing (AINs), and for AINs to be licensed.
“[AINs] do predominately nursing work – so we believe they should therefore be registered by the same body that registers nurses, ENs and midwives. It’s all about protection of the public and protection of the worker, by ensuring there are national benchmarks in education and training.
“We are looking forward to seeing the PC recommendations – part of our campaign has been to see more transparency in the process of the government funding of aged care, so we can see the money that is being put towards wages.”
Aged care nurses earn an average of $393.77 per week less, under an Award, and $168.52 less per week under an Enterprise Bargaining Agreement, according to an ANF submission quoted in the January draft of the PC report.
A number of other industry stakeholders have pointed to the same issue in their submissions to the PC and in other forums, including aged care providers who want to be able to pay nurses more, but argue they are not able to find the money in the current system.
The Caring for Older Australians draft also states the wage gap has been widening over time, and that currently, providers are unable to pay competitive wages due to inadequate funding and indexation.
To deal with the issue, the PC draft proposed that “scheduled prices for aged care should take into account the need to pay competitive wages to nursing and other care staff delivering care services”.