Submission to the Independent Inquiry into Insecure Work

Published: 15 March 2012

The Queensland Nurses‟ Union (QNU) thanks the Inquiry for providing the opportunity to comment on insecure work and its impact on workers, their families and the community. Our submission highlights particular areas of concern where Queensland nurses and midwives are vulnerable to precarious employment. This is a conundrum for the profession as these conditions exist alongside an ongoing workforce shortage that is set to increase in the next few years.

In our submission we draw attention to some of the issues facing nurses in aged care, 457 visa holders and graduate nurses. We also propose an alternative method of bargaining that has been effective in Queensland public sector and which we believe may offer benefits for insecure workers in other industries.

The QNU seeks to enhance and enforce industrial protections around specific characteristics of the nursing and midwifery workforce it is feminised, part-time and ageing. The national Australian Institute of Health and Welfare 2009 Nursing and Midwifery Labour Force Survey (2011) found that

  • The number of registered and enrolled nurses in the labour force (that is, employed in or looking for work in nursing in Australia) increased by 14.2% between 2005 and 2009, from 254,956 to 291,246.
  • Between 2005 and 2009, the number of nurses actually employed in nursing increased by 13.3%, from 244,360 to 276,751.
  • The average weekly hours worked by employed nurses and midwives increased slightly from 33.0 hours in 2005 to 33.3 hours in 2009.
  • Over the same period, the proportion of nurses working part time (less than 35 hours per week) declined slightly from 49.8% to 47.7%.
  • Between 2005 and 2009, the proportion of employed nurses aged 50 years and over increased from 35.8% to 36.3%. The average age of nurses decreased from 45.1 years in 2005 to 44.3 years in 2009.
  • Nursing continued to be a female dominated profession, with females comprising 90.4% of employed nurses in 2009 (down slightly from 92.1% in 2005).

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