$3,000 ‘winter bonus’ in Vic to help with vicious cycle of understaffing - is ECEC next?
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$3,000 ‘winter bonus’ in Vic to help with vicious cycle of understaffing – is ECEC next?

by Freya Lucas

June 14, 2022

The Victorian Government is giving a $3,000 ‘winter bonus’ to public sector health care workers in what one union has termed “an important acknowledgement of their pandemic work over an extended period, and an important retention and recruitment incentive”.


With the early childhood education and care (ECEC) sector in the midst of a staffing crisis of its own, many are wondering if similar bonuses for ECEC could help to stem the tide of people turning away from the profession. 


The bonus comes on top of the government’s public sector hospital support surge allowance paid for just over 24 weeks between October 2021 and March 2022, for which nurses and midwives received $30 or $60 per shift depending on whether they worked in a COVID-19 zone. A full-time nurse or midwife working eight-hour shifts received an additional $3,600/$7,200 or $8,640 if they worked 12-hour shifts ($90 per shift) in a COVID-19 zone. 


Powerful advocacy from the Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation (ANMF) led to the change, with the Foundation holding discussions with the Department of Health and government representatives for several weeks to finalise the package to acknowledge the challenges and ease some of the pressures nurses and midwives are facing.


In addition to the winter bonus, free meals will be provided to those staff working on night shift. The Foundation has contacted all private health sector employers urging them to make similar payments to their nurses and midwives to recognise the difficulties all healthcare workers are facing.


As in the ECEC sector, in many instances nurses and midwives are “holding the system together” with redeployment, overtime and double shifts and “some are hanging on by a thread,” said ANMF Victorian Branch Secretary Lisa Fitzpatrick.


“Acknowledgement is really important, but what we really hope is that nurses and midwives who have taken some time out may be able to return so health services can start to fill the vacancies on rosters and we can start working within ratios again,” she added, again making parallels with the lived experience of those in the ECEC sector who are struggling for staff.


“Understaffing causes more understaffing and we can’t fix shortages caused by COVID-19 and flu.”


She hopes the bonus will help hospitals to encourage some staff back by valuing their important work, which in turn may address some of the workforce shortages and ease some of the stress that is causing burn out and resignations.   


By valuing staff, she hopes the crisis can be reversed, staff can be retained, and others can be attracted back to working in the sector.


A further package is said to be under development by the Victorian Government which is rumoured to include a $45 per-shift stipend.

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