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Picture by Les O’Rourke.

Nurses protest through Melbourne streets

The streets of Melbourne’s CBD were filled with almost 400 nurses and carers yesterday afternoon, as nursing home workers rallied for safer staffing levels and better wages.

The statewide rally was the first of its kind to see private aged care nurses protest against a for-profit aged care employer in Victoria.

Staff from Bupa’s 26 Victorian nursing homes led the rally outside its Melbourne office, with  stop work meetings and community barbecues to be held in Wodonga, Echuca and Traralgon next week.

Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation (Victorian Branch) meetings will also be held across Bupa’s Victorian nursing homes over the next week, as members consider strike action.

The Victorian branch has been trying to negotiate a new enterprise agreement with Bupa since July last year.

Secretary Lisa Fitzpatrick addressed the hundreds of nurses at the rally, and says she wants to see Bupa backfill sick leave and increase wages to match what was being paid in other private nursing homes across the state.

“What you are doing by coming here today is signaling to Bupa that there is a line in the sand being drawn for private aged care in this country,” she said at the rally.

“You’re sending a message, not just to Bupa but to the political parties and our federal government, that it is no longer good enough to ignore the vulnerable and the aged in this country by not providing safe staffing levels.

“We want Bupa and all other nursing homes to introduce safe staffing levels of nurses and carers, not just here in Victoria, but across the country.

“We need the federal Aged Care Act, which the Howard Government changed 20 years ago, amended to include mandated minimum ratios instead of the current unenforceable and undefined requirement for nursing homes to have an ‘adequate’ number of skilled staff,” she said.

Fair Work Commission Deputy President RS Hamilton continues to assist the parties with negotiations. The next meeting is scheduled for October 31.

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