Penalty rates concern in aged care sector

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Nurses fear those working in the aged care sector could lose Sunday penalty rates, if Productivity Commission recommendations are adopted.

The NSW Nurses and Midwives’ Association said the commission did not include the aged care sector among those essential services to be exempt from any changes.

The commission has recommended reducing Sunday penalty rates to the cheaper Saturday rate, for the hospitality, entertainment and retail sectors.

Association general secretary Brett Holmes said the lack of clarity on the aged care sector was “alarming” and likened the draft recommendations to “the calm before the storm”.

He said the Abbott Government was “likely to adopt an incremental approach, chipping away at penalty rates until they are abolished”.

“It might be the shop assistants’ or baristas’ penalty rates under attack today, but it won’t be long before nurses and midwives’ penalty rates are under threat once again,” Mr Holmes said.

Mr Holmes also raised concerns over the draft recommendation to tamper with minimum wage indexation.

“This is a particularly worrying draft recommendation for our assistants in nursing (AiN), who play an integral role within the aged care workforce,” Mr Holmes said.

“Some of our AiNs are paid only the minimum wage and rely on these increases to help them make ends meet as costs of living continue to rise.

“It would be extremely devastating to AiNs if minimum wage growth was frozen.”

Meanwhile, Moruya branch secretary Stacey Jeffery said penalty rates were a hot topic at the association’s recent state conference. 

“Midwives and nurses have no choice, they have to work all hours and all days of the week,” Ms Jeffery said. 

“I think a lot of nurses and midwives may rethink their career choice if penalty rates are cut. 

“If they aren’t going to get any benefits from being away from their families and friends, missing out on events and working unsociable hours, they won’t do it. 

“It will affect the economy as a whole, because lots of other shift workers will refuse to work weekends.”

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