Prior to enterprise bargaining, most Victorian nurses and midwives received the same rates of pay, regardless of their employer. Nurses and midwives in larger jobs with more bargaining power, such as the public sector, have more opportunities to take such union action than to pressure an employer to improve their offerings. This explains why there is a pay gap between public nurses and private nurses and private caregivers for the elderly. In 1997, the ANMF negotiated the first Victorian nurse and midwife eBA. At the time of the pressure, the ANMF was negotiating the seventh public sector EBA. The agreement covers about 60,000 nurses and midwives. Their strength in terms of numbers and their ability to take important trade union measures, such as the closure of beds and the abolition of electoral operations, mean that in two decades they have achieved significant improvements in conditions, wages and workloads. An enterprise agreement is an agreement between an employer and its employees that is covered by the agreement setting the wages and conditions of these workers for a maximum of four years. If you are a member of a union authorized to represent your industrial interests in the work to be done under the agreement, your union will be your bargaining representative for the agreement, unless you appoint another person as your representative or if you revoke the union status of your representative. As has already been said, it is more difficult for nurses, midwives and staff to take union action in smaller or fragmented workplaces. But not impossible. The rules set out in the Fair Work Act only allow for an enterprise agreement to cover an employer.
This restriction has often left nurses, midwives and nurses in smaller jobs, where members have less bargaining power due to lower numbers, lower wages and reduced conditions. The business negotiation process was initiated in the early 1990s by the Hawke/Keating Labor Government. It replaced the priority given to national wages and industrial bonuses, which helped to identify the wages and conditions of categories of workers. The purpose and intent of enterprise bargaining was to obtain higher wages and better terms than the bonuses granted. An enterprise agreement is an agreement between an employer and its employees that is covered by the agreement setting the wages and conditions of these workers for a maximum of four years. To enter into force, the agreement must be supported by the majority of workers who voted in favour of the agreement and it must be approved by an independent authority, the Fair Work Commission.