As 2018 moves into full swing, the Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation (ANMF) is poised to tackle wide-ranging issues confronting the health and aged care sectors that directly impact nurses, midwives and carers as well as the broader community.
Chief among this year’s priorities sits fixing the mounting crisis in aged care, in addition to advocating and protecting the nursing and
midwifery professions, championing societal issues such as climate change and maintaining and strengthening the ability of the nursing and midwifery workforce across
all levels to practise to their full scope and provide
Crucially, the ANMF will fight to improve a declining aged care sector and launch a powerful and defining national campaign demanding legislated ratios.
As the biggest union in Australia with a growing membership of more than 270,000, the ANMF represents a dedicated and resilient workforce and is committed to safeguarding the professions well into the future.
Late in 2018 ANMF’s Federal Secretary Lee Thomas stepped down to pursue a career in law but is starting the year seeing out her well earnt long service leave.
Annie Butler takes the helm as Acting Federal Secretary, supported by newly appointed Acting Assistant Federal Secretary Lori-anne Sharp; with the pair now spearheading the union’s leadership arm moving forward following backing at a recent meeting of the ANMF’s federal executive.
Queensland-based nurse Sally-Anne Jones maintains her role as ANMF Federal President.
Ms Butler said the year ahead presented numerous challenges as the union strives to draw attention to critical issues and lead the way in demanding change through targeted campaigns.
“As the country’s largest union the ANMF is once again primed to use its voice to improve the working lives of nurses and midwives and drive better health outcomes for the broader community,” she said. “The political landscape changes frequently but the collective capacity of the ANMF is equipped to confront and deal with current and emerging challenges facing our professions.”
The 2018 priorities include:
• Aged care: safe staffing
• Health impacts of climate change
• Making things fairer: Change The Rules
• Influencing national policy
• Better communication with ANMF members
The crisis facing aged care has undoubtedly reached breaking point.
Over time, a lack of accountability within the aged care sector has resulted in for-profit providers allowing sub-standard care in a bid to maximise profits.
The ripple effect has created a state of play where aged care workers across the country are increasingly fighting an uphill battle to provide the level of expert care their elderly residents require and deserve.
Under the current Aged Care Funding Instrument (ACFI) model, aged care providers receive funding based on the assessed care needs of their residents, within a range of categories.
About 70% of the funding aged care providers collect comes from the taxpayer, with the remainder generated by resident fees.
But, the system lacks transparency making it unclear if funding is being used to meet the needs of residents or being siphoned into profits.
Already in a number of aged care facilities across the country nursing hours have been significantly cut resulting in dangerously low staffing and subsequently missed care.
Fighting back, the ANMF Victorian Branch took unprecedented action against aged care provider Bupa aiming for better pay and conditions and ultimately better staffing across its nursing homes in Victoria during their enterprise bargaining negotiations.
However, A/Federal Secretary Annie Butler said the only way to ensure funding is directed into care is to make ratios in aged care law.
“Without legislated ratios in aged care, there’s nothing to ensure aged care providers such as Bupa are complying with guidelines to provide the level of service they sign up for. Taxpayers’ money is being squandered and inadequate care means our most vulnerable residents are sadly suffering due to the pursuit of profit margins.”
Despite a plethora of reviews and Inquiries examining the aged care sector over the past two decades no genuine action has been taken to address the issues, Ms Butler said.
The inaction has also remained despite the ANMF actively lobbying governments and key decision-makers to deal with the problem instead of shifting blame and responsibility.
At the 13th ANMF Biennial National Conference in Hobart held in October last year, delegates unanimously passed a resolution calling on the union to bring aged care to the fore as a key strategic national priority.
The plan underscored the need for a nationally steered aged care campaign demanding legislated ratios, proper skills mix and fair pay and working conditions for those working in the sector.
On the back of the delegates’ resolutions, the ANMF will be launching its critical campaign to address these core issues.
“We are going to take this aged care campaign to a whole new level to ensure action is taken before more damage is done,” Ms Butler said.
“The campaign, will involve raising awareness about core issues and putting politicians on notice that enough is enough for once and for all.”
Ms Butler said the ANMF had collected solid evidence underlying why aged care is failing and put forth strategic solutions required to trigger meaningful change.
She said the ANMF plans to add to its body of research by examining the money trail behind aged care funding and seeking accountability. “We need to know where the money is going and aged care nurses and their residents definitely need to know,” Ms Butler said.
“If the money is not going to care then where is it going?
“We need to be sure that our money, taxpayers’ money is spent on safe quality care for our elderly.”
Ms Butler said the government must work with the ANMF to find solutions to fix the sector. “A meaningful aged care strategy can only occur utilising the knowledge of nurses and carers at the coalface of aged care.”
MAKING THINGS FAIRER: CHANGE THE RULES
In 2018, the ANMF is supporting the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) national ‘Change the Rules’ campaign that aims to address inequality by pushing for amendments to the Fair Work Act and shifting power back to working people
Launched last year, the campaign seeks to bring together all Australian unions in a bid to change the rules and bring fairness back to the nation’s workplaces so unfair laws can no longer hold everyday working people to ransom.
The campaign draws attention to widespread inequality, a broken tax system that rewards big business, employers deliberately underpaying workers, weak industrial rights, rising insecure work arrangements, abuse of the temporary overseas working visa system, and concerns over the restrictive rules surrounding enterprise bargaining often used to exploit workers.
The campaign also addresses cuts to penalty rates for 700,000 hospitality and retail workers and raises genuine fears the attacks will extend to other industries such as nursing and midwifery in the near future.
The campaign reveals thought-provoking evidence that paints a bleak picture illustrating how far the pendulum has swung in favour of big business.
• income inequality is greater than any time in the past 76 years;
• in 2014-15, the top 10 companies that paid no tax at all had a combined revenue of $33 billion;
• too many hurdles involved in industrial action, with employers able to threaten heavy penalties while workers can do little to stop them;
• widespread wage theft across Australia, including one third of workers being underpaid super entitlements;
• restrictive rules around enterprise bargaining, with bosses increasingly exploiting them by employing tactics including outsourcing, offshoring, terminating agreements and avoiding paying fair wages;
• penalty rates cuts for 700,000 hospitality and retail workers, with some losing up to $77 per week;
• the increasing casualisation of the workforce, with employers using insecure work arrangements to improve their bottom line;
• the gender pay gap stubbornly hovering between 15 and 19% for the past two decades; and
• the government refusing to ensure job opportunities for local workers while allowing dodgy employers to exploit overseas workers.
Many of the issues targeted in the ‘Change the Rules’ campaign mirror resolutions endorsed by ANMF delegates at the union’s 13th ANMF Biennial National Conference last year.
This includes to maintain the fight to protect penalty rates for nurses and midwives in all sectors; to campaign for a fairer tax system; and perhaps, most of all, to ‘change the rules’ for aged care for our nurses and carers working in the sector and mostly for the residents living in aged care.
ANMF A/Federal Secretary Annie Butler said the union stood together with the ACTU and unions across Australia in fighting to turn the tide back in favour of the worker.
“The ANMF fully supports the ‘Change the Rules’ campaign and we are confident it can ultimately lead to fair and decent working conditions for all Australians,” Ms Butler said.
“The current system is flawed and unfair. The rules must now be re-written to ensure working people regain their rights and power is taken back from employers driven by boosting profits.
“I call on all nurses and midwives to join the fight in bringing fairness back. Change doesn’t come easy but with collective action real progress can be achieved.”
HEALTH IMPACTS OF CLIMATE CHANGE
Treatment of climate change-related health conditions are adding to the burden of an already stretched healthcare workforce.
Nurses, midwives and aged care workers contend with the increasing fallout of bushfires, heatwaves and floods. Unprecedented incidents last year included the thunderstorm asthma event in Victoria and the ‘Ash Fly Crisis’ in South Australia.
“Nurses and midwives and assistants in nursing are increasingly concerned about the health implications of climate change and global warming,” says ANMF A/Federal Secretary Annie Butler.
“These adverse climatic conditions continue to pose significant risk to the health and wellbeing of the community, particularly in those who are most vulnerable like the elderly and Indigenous people in remote and rural areas.”
The 2017 Biennial National Conference (BNC) requested that Federal ANMF continue to campaign about the adverse health impacts of climate change and the need to transition to zero emissions energy sources urgently to avoid dangerous and irreversible impact on the environment and health.
The BNC called on Federal ANMF to advocate for a meaningful and consistent renewable energy target such as Victoria’s 40% renewable target by 2025 to meet Australia’s Paris commitment to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees or well below two degrees.
Australia only ratified its commitment to reduce its emissions to 26-28% on 2005 levels by 2030, in 2016. The UN’s Sustainable Development Goals will be extraordinarily difficult to meet given the apathy to date of countries to act swiftly, according to climate experts.
In the latest blow, the Turnbull government recently scrapped the Clean Energy Target (CET) which the ANMF warns will lead to an increase in carbon emissions.
“This means that Australia will now struggle to achieve its Paris targets under the new National Energy Guarantee, putting the health of all Australians further at risk,” says Ms Butler.
Ms Butler says it was shameful the government capitulated to conservative climate-change sceptics and walked away from plans to cut emissions from the CET.
“The politically motivated policy move to support coal fired power at the expense of support for renewable energy risks causing further harm to our community’s health.”
Both the federal and Queensland governments’ support for the $16.5 billion Adani Coal Mine in the Carmichael Basin has drawn widespread condemnation from not only green activists and high profile Australians but growing community opposition nationally.
The ANMF has called on the government to focus on a genuine emissions reduction scheme through the greater use of renewables.
While Australia lacks a national strategy on climate change, all three major political parties jointly hosted the launch of a proposed framework for a national strategy last year. It was followed by a health leaders roundtable convened in October.
Any national strategy will need to support nurses, midwives and assistants in nursing to implement sound and viable climate change initiatives, says Ms Butler.
“As the largest component of the healthcare workforce, they are at the forefront of providing care to communities affected by climate change.
“Nurses and midwives are well placed to develop policy and influence practices in their workplace to improve energy and water efficiency, procurement and waste management practices.”
The ANMF Victorian Branch Health and Environmental Sustainability conference held in Melbourne in 2017 showcased the efforts of health services and individual nurses and midwives to reduce their environmental impact. Individuals and organisations’ strategies include: energy efficiency; water and waste management; recycling, including PVC; use of solar PV; and service procurement and design.
The ANMF supports the Global Green and Healthy Hospitals (GGHH) worldwide network for the health sector to reduce its environmental impact. Globally there are almost 800 members with a reported 25,000 hospital and health services signed up.
Nurses and midwives are in a position of advocacy - to communicate within their communities and their workplaces about climate change and health, says Ms Butler.
“As members of the community, nurses, midwives and assistants in nursing need to participate in the broader climate change debate, using their networks to communicate with politicians, the media and the community on the importance of reducing carbon emissions.”
INFLUENCING NATIONAL POLICY
The ANMF will boost its research capacity in 2018 to provide better evidence to influence national health and aged care policy and to deliver better outcomes for our members and our communities.
An expanded research platform will include analysis of the impact of federal health and aged care policies, including on workforce, funding and the capacity for nurses and midwives to deliver the best care they can,
Ms Butler says.
“We want to evaluate the impact of current policies in health and aged care; and contribute to and influence new national policy.”
The ANMF will do this by building policy research networks and collaborations with major stakeholders including developing relationships with research institutes, think tanks, policy makers, government departments and other organisations, Ms Butler says.
“We want to be seen as a key player in influencing the government’s agenda in health and aged care.
“We will do this by providing rapid responses to critical reviews and put forward our own evidence to support the nursing and midwifery professions in government consultations, submissions and roundtables.”
The ANMF aims to develop a broad program of health and aged care research in population and public health, health systems, workforce planning and reform, safety and quality, clinical practice and patient outcomes.
“We want to build a resilient, sustainable and collaborative nursing, midwifery and aged care workforce,” Ms Butler says.
“We want a health system that supports nurses, midwives and aged care workers to deliver high quality care and that is adequately resourced.”
Research conducted by the ANMF has bolstered the union’s position on penalty rates, paid parental leave and conditions in aged care.
The ANMF’s national workforce survey in aged care this year revealed the true extent of cuts to care hours in residential facilities nationwide.
The ANMF National Aged Care Staffing and Skills Mix Project was the first of its kind in Australia, which collected evidence that demonstrated the need for a staffing methodology that considered both staffing levels and skills mix for residential aged care.
BETTER COMMUNICATION WITH ANMF MEMBERS
The ANMF will streamline its communications in 2018 to make information and news more accessible and relevant to the membership.
The ANMF’s flagship publication the ANMJ will undergo a revamp in response to the members’ needs gauged through a survey late last year.
In line with the ANMF’s policies on sustainability and reducing its environmental imprint, the ANMJ will move to fewer hard copies. The move will be supported with a new online digital presence, says Ms Butler.
“The ANMJ has already been free online since last February making it more accessible for all members,” says Ms Butler.
“The ANMF is now keen for improved online delivery of the ANMJ through a digital news site. A digital website will allow for breaking news and ANMF updates to members as the frequency of the ANMJ is reduced.”
The member survey revealed the majority of you read the ANMJ and that you would like to see more nursing and midwifery related news, healthcare news and tips to help you in the workplace.
“You told us how busy you are and you want more timely information. – and we are responding,” Ms Butler says.
The ANMJ will continue to provide industrial, professional, clinical and education articles relevant to the nursing and midwifery professions. In between, more immediate and ‘snack-able’ content will be available online to members.
“This is an exciting time for us to provide more timely information to our members as well as move forward with how our members want to access their ANMJ,” Ms Butler says.
To read more articles from ANMJ, view the full journal online at https://issuu.com/australiannursingfederation/docs/anmj_feb_18_issuu