AGED care nurses and carers from Bupa Echuca will hold a two-hour stop-work meeting and community rally on Wednesday to demand safe staffing levels and better wages.
The strike action, to be held from noon to 2pm on the corner of Fehring lane and Northern Hwy, follows a rally in Melbourne on Wednesday where almost 400 nurses and carers from Bupa’s 26 nursing homes across Victoria, including Echuca, came together to fight for better pay and conditions.
Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation Victorian branch had been trying to negotiate a new enterprise agreement with Bupa since July 2016.
‘‘What you are doing by coming here today is signalling to Bupa that there is a line in the sand being drawn for private aged care in this country,’’ secretary Lisa Fitzpatrick told those at the rally.
Ms Fitzpatrick said the Bupa nurses and carers who had been taking an unprecedented 23 days of protected industrial action were ‘‘trailblazers’’.
‘‘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,’’ she said.
Ms Fitzpatrick said nurses and carers wanted wages that reflected what their counterparts were being paid in other private aged care nursing homes in Victoria, an earlier pay increase start date before September 1 and for Bupa to backfill sick leave and not ‘save a shift’.
‘‘And 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,’’ she said.
‘‘If the Andrews Government can legislate ratios here in public aged care in Victoria, why can’t a Federal Government do it private aged care which they’ve got responsibility for?’’
Bupa has said it is committed to ensuring appropriate staffing levels and will continue to negotiate with the unions.
‘‘Bupa is committed to ensuring staffing levels are appropriate to meet the assessed medical needs of all residents,’’ Bupa Aged Care chief nurse Maureen Berry said in a statement.
‘‘This includes our decisions on replacing staff if a vacancy arises for sick or other leave.’’
The organisation said it respected the right of employees to take protected action but was disappointed by the ongoing action.
The company has improved its wage offer since industrial action began in early October.