Judith Kiejda: a massive blow for mothers

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Judith Kiejda, Assistant General Secretary of the NSW Nurses and Midwives Association, spoke at the ACTU Congress in Melbourne today on union determination to oppose federal government cuts to the paid parental leave scheme (PPL). Here is Judith’s speech as she moved the resolution (which can be found below).

I acknowledge the Wurrungeree people as owners of this land and any elders past and present.

As Assistant Secretary of the union representing over 60,000 nurses and midwives in NSW – the majority of whom, it won’t surprise you to know, are women – I am proud to be moving this important resolution.

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Judith addresses the 2015 ACTU Congress.

Working women currently receive access to taxpayer-funded paid parental leave of $641 a week (the minimum wage) for up to 18 weeks. This roughly equates to $11,500 – it’s not exactly a windfall.


Judith addresses ACTU Congress.

The PPL scheme, when introduced by Labor in 2011, had three key aims:

–          to increase female workforce participation

–          to improve the well-being of mothers and babies

–          to promote gender equity and work-life balance.

The government scheme was always intended to complement workplace schemes. Together,  they brought Australia closer to the 26-week minimum provided in many other OECD countries.

bubs need mum

Now, it appears, the conservative geniuses in Canberra want to tear this down.

The Abbott government announced in its Budget two weeks ago that women with access to an employer scheme which is more generous than the taxpayer-funded scheme will no longer have access to government payments.

More than 80,000 new mums will be worse off, if the government can persuade parliament to support this plan – good luck!

This abhorrent budget measure is indicative of just how out of touch our Treasurer and Prime Minister are when it comes to women and to boosting female participation in the workforce.

This a massive blow for mothers, particularly some of our nurses.

At the moment, a registered nurse in the NSW public health system is entitled to 14 weeks paid maternity leave and can access an additional 18 weeks from the government. This ensures they can stay at home during the most critical time of their baby’s life – the beginning. Many of us here who are parents understand just how important that time is.

ppl petition

However, it’s important to also point out that many other sectors – for example, aged care and private hospital employers – don’t offer any paid maternity leave at all, prompting nurses in these sectors to rely entirely on the government scheme.

As a result, they have their babies and, in many circumstances, are back at work within three to four months because of the heavy reliance on maintaining a steady stream of income to support their families. It is a sacrifice they are prepared to pay, for the benefit of their kids.

As our resolution reflects: adequate paid parental leave is also critical to supporting increased participation of mothers in the workforce to boost the strength of our economy.

For many years our nursing and midwifery federation, the ANMF, has campaigned for extensions to PPL legislation and for shift workers to access ‘long hours’ day care.

Given that nursing and midwifery in this country continue to be female-dominated professions, with women comprising almost 93 percent of the total nursing and midwifery workforce, we find the Abbott government’s new budget measure astounding.

Tony Abbott, as the so-called Minister for Women, promised a 26-week PPL scheme. Then, in one of his many backflips, it was decreased to 18 weeks. And now, for more than 80,000 women, it may have been taken off the table completely.

Accusing hardworking women of “double dipping, rorting and fraud” if they happen to have access to an employer-funded maternity leave system is, quite frankly, insulting.

PPL Ged

It’s an outrageous policy position to take – on the one hand this government claims it wants to help fix the dire predicament our child care system finds itself in, while on the other hand it wants to penalise those who we rely on to build our better future in this country.

Thousands of nurses and midwives have bargained for increased parental leave over the years and now Tony Abbott is breaking another promise – a promise about parental leave he made to women prior to the last election. Well frankly, Mr Abbott, we’ve all had a gutful of your policy-on-the-run and disrespect towards some of the most disadvantaged Australians, who are scraping by on the minimum wage.

Today, by moving this motion, we condemn the Abbott government for their attack on hard working parents and call on delegates to send a message to Canberra that we will fight for fair and universal paid parental leave.

judith moves

All experts back 26 weeks paid parental leave as optimal for the health and well-being of mothers, babies, families and communities – and as a formidable group here this morning, so do we.

I put to you that this motion be passed in its entirety, because it represents what Australians, female and male, and what working families represent in today’s society – a fair go for all and a fair go for women in the workforce.

Thank you.

ACTU resolution on Paid Parental Leave for all

Congress condemns the government’s Mothers’ Day announcement to cut Government funded paid parental leave for 46% of Australian women, mostly those on low to middle incomes.

This will rip $11,500 out of the budgets of 80,000 households at a time when they most need financial support.

Congress notes that almost all experts back 26 weeks Paid Parental Leave as optimal for the health and well-being of mothers, babies and families and communities. 

Cutting Paid Parental Leave entitlements will force some women to return to work earlier for financial reasons or others, particularly those who can’t access childcare, to withdraw from the workforce all together.

Adequate Paid Parental Leave is also critical to supporting increased participation of mothers in the workforce to boost the strength of our economy. 

This was the position the Prime Minister took to voters and the G20 and is completely contrary to his new position to cut Government paid parental leave entitlements for working mothers to the minimum.

The government paid parental leave scheme was always intended to complement additional paid leave negotiated by employees and their unions. 

Congress condemns the Abbott government Ministers who are now accusing working women who receive both workplace and government funded paid parental leave of fraud, claiming they are “rorting”.

Congress notes the business community does not support the government cuts as it undermines the many employers who support women and parents in their organisation.

Congress also notes that more than 50 child health experts and women’s groups have written to Mr Abbott, calling on him to back down on the planned cuts, and instead work towards the 26-week best practice standard recommended by the World Health Organisation and others.

The ACTU and unions joins with employers, community and women’s groups to oppose the government’s cuts to Paid Parental Leave.
Congress commits:

  1. The ACTU and unions to work with employers and community groups to lobby MPs to oppose any reduction in employee’s access to the government PPL scheme; and
  2. To vigorously defend all employees’ rights to access the government PPL scheme as well as any entitlements achieved in bargaining; including working with employers to ensure they are able to continue their commitment to supporting women and employees with caring responsibilities.

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1 COMMENT

  1. So what was the motion? Perhaps that could have been clearly stated without all the faff and outrage.

    Additionally I find it hard to believe that “For many years our nursing and midwifery federation, the ANMF, has campaigned for extensions to PPL legislation and for shift workers to access ‘long hours’ day care.” If this was really the case, we would have the best conditions in the world for shift working parents, instead of people still being forced into working compulsory rotating rosters with rigid starting times. And don’t get me started on supposed long hours day care. Sadly, our Association and Federation have let us down badly.

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