The Australian Nursing Federation condemned the decision of Independent Senator Nick Xenophon and Family First Senator Stephen Fielding to seek amendments to the Fair Work Bill in relation to the rights of employees to unfair dismissal.
ANF Federal Secretary Ged Kearney said the stance taken by Xenophon and Fielding was incredibly uninformed, demonstrated a complete misunderstanding of the Australian labour force and was an attack on the unfair dismissal rights of a major proportion of nursing staff.
Ms Kearney said that the decision by the Senators to try to amend the unfair dismissal provisions so that they will only apply to businesses with 20 EFT or more would mean that thousands of nurses would lose their right to unfair dismissal protections.
“The industries in which nurses are employed have high levels of part time and casual labour. For example, a typical aged care facility would employ almost exclusively part time and casual labour. This means in some circumstances an aged care facility could have to employ 100 actual staff to meet the Xenophon and Fielding test.”
“Of course, many of these businesses would not meet this test and the employees would be denied any protections.” Ms Kearney said
Nurses employed in these facilities will no longer be able to advocate or speak up on behalf of residents through fear of losing their jobs. Many will also be forced to make a choice as to whether they will remain working in a business that does not provide for unfair dismissal protections or move to a larger employer who does.
The obvious consequence of this is that small businesses with less than 20 full time equivalent employees will suffer in their ability to provide appropriate nursing care. This will further compound recruitment and retention problems already existing in the aged care sector.
Ms Kearney also reminded the Senators that women form the majority of the part time workforce in Australia and it will be women who suffer as a result of their proposed changes.
Ms Kearney said that Xenophon and Fielding should immediately reverse their decision and get out of the way and let the government introduce laws that have been endorsed by the Australian public.
The ANF, representing nearly 170,000 members, is the professional and industrial voice for nurses and midwives in Australia.
Australian Nursing Federation