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Nurses unions lodge test take home pay order

Order to protect pay of nurses in NSW and Qld under new rules believed to be first of its kind.

Nursing unions have launched a landmark class action to protect the wages of thousands of aged care workers under new Fair Work rules.

The Australian Nursing Federation (ANF) lodged the take home pay order on behalf of aged care workers in NSW and Queensland, amid fears the workers could end up earning less when the new rules kick in on 1 July.

The application, thought to be the first of its type, is being viewed as a test case by the union.

Under the government’s new Fair Work rules, minimum wages in the sector will be made uniform across the country over a four-year transition period starting on 1 July, leading to fears of a 20 per cent cut in pay for some workers in the two east coast states.

However, the government has said anyone earning less under the new regime can apply for a take home pay order, protecting wages at current levels.

The ANF application, made in conjunction with its local branches, the NSW Nurses Association (NSWNA) and the Queensland Nurses Union (QNU), had been made to head off any future problems, ANF general secretary Ged Kearny said.

This was despite Fair Work Australia saying it would only make take home pay orders if workers had actually suffered a pay cut, rather than just on the expectation of a reduction.

“This is partly why we see this as a test case,” NSWNA general secretary Brett Holmes said.

It is also believed to be the first time a union has made a take home pay order application on behalf of a large number of workers.

A total of 284 private and not-for-profit aged care facilities in NSW and 116 in Queensland are named in the class action, sent to Fair Work Australia on Thursday.

Kearny said she hoped the issue will be resolved before 1 July.

The ANF’s NSW branch, the NSW Nurses Association (NSWNA), said it joined the action to protect the wages of thousands of aged care nurses at 284 facilities across the state.

It estimates the wages of NSW aged care nurses will drop 20 per cent in July under the new national pay regime.

“Aged care nursing pay rates are already significantly lower than nursing pay rates in the hospital sector,” Holmes said.

“We cannot afford to have employers taking this opportunity to reduce those wages even further. Such an outcome will be harmful and unfair for the nurses and the aged care industry.”

Kearny said many people will be watching the outcome of the case.

“This is the first time a union has used these provisions to protect workers across a large number of employers,” she said.

“Instead of waiting for employers to cut workers’ wages we are getting in first to ensure they are protected.”

AAP

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