You have recently received a “Proposed workplace internal change” document and had meetings with your management over a possible shift to a four days on, four days off, roster system.
In order to foster the pretence that they are acting in good faith (as they are required to by the Employment Relations Act), they are suggesting that “No decisions have been made” and that “employees are given the opportunity to provide feedback”. However the language of the document is quite disingenuous and it is clear to most of us reading it that the move to a “4-on-4-off rotating roster” is a done deal. (I will only eat my words here if they prove me wrong by announcing “no change to the roster” on 17 February.)
What is wrong with the proposal?
This proposal will force you into working a part-time 3.5 days a week job. If you currently work a 5 day 40 hour week you will face a drop in income of 30% over a year. If you are a care-giver this means that if your income is about $31,000 per year it will drop to $21,500. A registered nurse might expect to go from say $52,000 to $36,000.
Not only will you be forced into part-time work, this type of roster will make it impossible for you to find another part-time job elsewhere. You need to ask yourself if you will be able to continue to afford your rent and other living expenses under this environment.
Ask your manager if s/he will also move to a 4-on-4-off. I bet the answer is no. I also suspect that all the managers higher up in the company will receive a bonus if they manage to foist this roster on the care facility.
The plea is that the company is having trouble maintaining the sustainability and viability of the Care Home. They are appealing to you to help them do this by reducing your income and conditions of work. They say that they care about fairness to the staff and about delivering a high quality outcome to the aged care residents - but do they?
It is well known that workers in aged care facilities are underpaid, under-staffed and under-resourced compared to their counterparts in the District Health Boards. The people employed are often vulnerable overseas workers and others desperate for work. Not only that, most feel they cannot give adequate time to those that they care for.
“Many nurses are reluctant to
work in the sector because
they know there are not
enough staff to care properly
for the residents they are
professionally responsible for.”
A Report into Aged Care - What does the future hold for older New Zealanders? October 2010
Their financial reports state:
“In New Zealand, we opened additional apartments and villas in three care villages and increased capital investment by 20% year-on-year in new builds and refurbishment.”
“In New Zealand, revenues and profits increased year-on-year with resident numbers rising. However as capacity grew at a faster rate, occupancy figures slipped to 90.9% from 94.0% in care homes and to 87.5% from 91.1% in care villages. Government spending caps in New Zealand continue to present some financial challenges.”
Bupa Half year statement for the six months ended 30 June 2013
“While BUPA is technically a not‐for‐profit business since it is a provident fund (meaning that it does not have shareholders, and that its surplus income is supposed to be reinvested for the benefit of its customers) this is not a relevant distinction when it comes to its provision of care services in New Zealand. This is because its customers are not the residents of its rest homes, even when they pay fees for their care directly, but rather those who buy individual or company health care insurance with BUPA.”
“The BUPA Group has a clear strategy of pursuing growth both in the United Kingdom and international markets particularly in the Australian and New Zealand markets where the BUPA group has identified opportunities for an experienced operator and provider of aged care businesses to make acquisitions and apply its international experience in the provision of aged care services. The acquisition will geographically diversify the BUPA Group's international operations and provide a platform to further expand its aged care and retirement village portfolio”.
In its “Preliminary Results Announcement for the year ended 31 December 2010”, BUPA reported a 9% annual growth in total revenues (up to 7.58 billion), of which 4% came from expansion of its businesses, and 5% from favourable exchange rate transactions (more money for free for a transnational company). It also noted the differences in profitability of its UK and Australasian care services, and the reasons for this, saying of its BUPA Care Homes UK operation that: “Revenues grew and surplus was maintained despite public … funding restrictions, with the local authority fee increase across England from 1 April 2010 just 0.5%” (p. 10).
Overall BUPA said that its Care Services division performed well, despite increasing pressure on public sector budgets in the UK, which was having an impact on aged care fees and referrals. In Australia and New Zealand however, the division benefited from “more benign economic conditions”. BUPA is engaged in political lobbying in the UK to try and prevent more cuts in public funding of its facilities. Its preliminary statement for 2010 also says that in response to the reduction in public spending on aged care it is “actively controlling costs”.
It appears to be doing this already in New Zealand, despite the “more benign” economic environment. The Roger Award judges thought that BUPA deserved to be the second place getter primarily because of its poor treatment of both its staff and its clients. Admittedly, the NZ government has so far done nothing to promulgate and enforce regulations to require that rest homes are staffed by an appropriate number of properly qualified and paid staff, who give a reasonable amount of care (in quantity and quality) to their clients. The staffing guidelines that currently exist provide for extremely low ratios of qualified nursing staff to clients, and extremely small amounts of contact time between clients and caregivers – much lower than international best practice standards. In any case, these guidelines are purely voluntary.
Staff are generally poorly paid, and frequently overworked, due to short‐staffing in their facility. The number and percentage of staff who are foreign nationals who are working in NZ rest homes, and for whom English is a second language, is not known, but we now know that three of these already vulnerable women (two Filipinas and one Thai) who were working for three different BUPA‐owned homes, were sadly killed in the February 22nd Christchurch earthquake while they were attending English language classes in the CTV Building, which collapsed on top of them http://www.bupa.co.nz/Care‐Homes‐News.aspx – accessed 15/3/11). Competent New Zealand registered nurses are often reluctant to work in aged care, largely because they know they will be expected to do impossible amounts of work, and still not be able to provide adequate care, which may leave them open to charges of professional negligence.
In these staffing circumstances, is it any wonder that the quality of client care is extremely variable, and that there are now many well‐documented cases of elderly New Zealanders receiving poor care, or being so badly neglected or mistreated that they end up in a public hospital requiring acute care – where some of them die. One of these people was a resident in a BUPA rest home in Tauranga. For several months she suffered considerably from misdiagnosed and untreated scabies. This led to other complications which eventually killed her. BUPA management averred that it was meeting the industry standards of care for its client – which, as we have already seen are too low. It may well have been meeting those inadequate standards, but that is irrelevant if the actual care it delivered was insufficient to maintain the health and life of its client, caused her to suffer unduly, and ultimately caused her death.
This would be bad enough if New Zealand were as poor as Haiti or Zaire, and unable to fund high standards of care for the elderly. But it is not, and therefore it is a public scandal that taxpayer's money, paid out as subsidies for care, is being used to increase the profits of foreign‐owned companies rather than provide proper care for New Zealanders. BUPA should be ashamed of itself, but it is only doing what all profit‐seeking companies will do if governments let them, which is to put profits before people. It is long past time that the aged care sector in New Zealand had a thorough overhaul, along the lines recommended by the report into aged care in New Zealand produced in 2010 by the Green and Labour Parties, in association with Grey Power. If at the end of that process companies like BUPA no longer find that the economic conditions in New Zealand are ''more benign'', so much the better for the health and wellbeing of elderly Kiwis. ”
My suggestion is that staff make a counter proposal to the company. It is well known that businesses who are generous to their staff will prosper. If BUPA can be persuaded to INCREASE staffing as well as wages, (to bring them up to the level of DHB workers), they will foster a happy and caring environment amongst the staff which will flow on to the aged-care residents. This will lead to a greater occupancy rate as word gets around that BUPA are truly a good place to stay. It may mean a short term blip on the company’s ability to acquire more properties - but in the longer term they will reap their rewards. Rather than see Liston Heights as an example of cost overrun - lets make it the shining light of what can be done with a few dollars spent on extra staff to help achieve fantastic outcomes for the residents.