So, You're Cutting Benefits For Nurses

30 August 2012
An Open Letter to NSW Premier Barry O'Farrell

So, yesterday I read that you're cutting penalty rates for aged care nurses, including holiday loading and penalties for shift work (which would make nurses the only permanent workers in Australia not entitled to holiday leave loading). Budget cuts have to be made somewhere, I understand, and why not nurses? The rationale behind keeping unemployment benefits well below the poverty line is that if they were higher; people would be comfortable staying on them and have no incentive to look for work. Maybe you have a similar rationale here; that by keeping nurse pay rates low, you weed out all those greedy nurses only in it for the money and are left with the caring ones who really want to be there. They should be glad to lose their benefits for the good of the state, glad they don't have a job like yours so difficult it was deserving of a salary of $333, 860 in the last financial year.

What a lovely, rewarding job being an aged care nurse must be anyway - draping crocheted rugs over the shoulders of sweet little old ladies, making them cups of tea, providing our senior citizens with care and respect as their lives draw to a close. Well, I can assure you that the care and respect are there, in spades. But you can have no idea what being an aged care nurse is really like. I do, because my husband is one. His reality is, many of the patients he deals with have dementia. It must be terrifying for them. They are not placid and compliant. Not knowing what is going on, they lash out. Imagine trying to clean up after a 70kg woman who has soiled herself and believes, in her mental confusion, that you are trying to rape her. So she kicks and screams and tries to bite. My husband has come home over the years with bruises (grip marks on his arms are particularly common) and scratches and even bite marks - with the disease risks that entails. Imagine walking into a room full of elderly people watching TV - and having one of them fling faeces at you. Pretty horrible, isn't it? This is the reality of aged care workers. It's a tough, tough job, and it's only going to get worse as the population ages and funding is unlikely to keep pace.

In Western society, due to our lifestyles and housing designs, we are largely unable to care for our elderly within our own families. So we outsource the work to the aged care sector. These people are absolutely vital to our society. They care for our elders when we can't, they face the reality of ageing so we don't have to. They deserve all the support we can give them, and you want to cut their meagre benefits. I'm speechless at the pettiness of it all. I really don't know what else to say. No doubt you'll rationalise this decision by saying you're helping to create jobs, by reducing the expenses of the owners of aged care facilities. I'm sure you'll argue that the state budget is stressed, and I guess it is. But please, Mr O'Farrell, don't cut the benefits of the people doing one of the hardest jobs there can be. Please pick on someone else.


  1. Everyone just assumes Liberals are going to slash worker pay to fund business profits, so there's no surprise when they keep going with it. People of NSW are the ones who voted him in, so on average it's sad and shows an outlook amongst many NSW people that welcomes slashing funding to the needy to boost private investor profits.

  2. I wish I could say I was surprised. :(

    What are they (the NSW branch of the nurses union etc.) doing about it?

  3. The head of the NSW nurses association says "the meanness of this beggars belief" (which is true), I'm not sure if they're organising any protests, if we were still in Sydney I'd march.

  4. ya it's true that more and more parents prefer to stay at home so the nurses are really being important now. They care for our parents when we are not able to do it so they deserve what they want.

  5. Really find interesting to read.. Thanks for Sharing.. Keep posting like this...


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