A new survey has revealed the aged care sector is “on the brink of collapse”, with three-quarters of the workforce warning they still intend to leave within six months if they do not receive a more significant pay increase.
While the Fair Work Commission awarded an interim 15% pay rise to direct care employees earlier this month, the Health Services Union (HSU) is continuing its campaign for a full 25% increase across the whole workforce.
In the HSU survey, aged care workers detailed how undervalued they feel and how close they are to giving up on the sector altogether.
The survey of almost 2000 aged care workers uncovered that working conditions remain unbearable and saw 75% of participants say they planned to leave the sector “soon” or “in the next six months” if they don’t receive more money.
Aged care workers can be paid as little as $22 per hour to care for patients with complex physical, emotional and cognitive conditions such as dementia.
The survey asked aged care workers to share the details of a challenging day at work in the last 12 months, and many articulated their exhaustion and frustration at the state of the sector.
An aged care worker called Wendy said, “I go home aching every day and in tears,” a sentiment shared by a fellow worker, Jade, who said, “I feel like we are understaffed and undervalued.”
“I guess every day is the biggest challenge solely because I feel like [residents] deserve more, and I can’t give that to them because of the aged care system and the lack of staffing and wages,” Jade added.
“These times have been difficult but not nearly as difficult as working extremely short staffed constantly, as no new workers want to join the industry because of the pay rate and conditions we have to work in,” she said.
About 91% of participants also said securing the 25% pay increase proposed by HSU was “extremely important”.
HSU National President, Gerard Hayes, pressed that the increase was “beyond urgent” to save the sector.
“Aged care workers cop abuse, pain and back-breaking strain… They do some of society’s most unpleasant and demanding work and until now they have been paid three-fifths of bugger all with pathetic job security,” he said.
“Unless we want our elderly cared for by robots and fed frankfurts and jelly, we need to commit to funding a full pay rise for all sections of the aged care workforce.”
The next stage of the HSU aged care work value campaign kicked off today as Mr Hayes and aged care workers gathered on the steps of the Fair Work Commission building in Sydney.