The Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation (ANMF) Victorian Branch met with eight aged care employers yesterday as the two sides clashed over how the upcoming 15% wage award increase will be passed on to aged care workers.
The ANMF and United Workers Union (UWU) are concerned some providers are unwilling to pass on the full 15% increase to aged care workers despite the Government’s intention to fully fund it.
Instead, some providers are waiting to see if they have to raise all wages by 15% even if they already pay staff above minimum wage on existing enterprise bargaining agreements (EBA). Some have allegedly threatened to cancel existing EBAs in retaliation to the dispute.
As a result, the ANMF (Vic Branch) met with the eight aged care providers, represented by Clare Dewan and Associates and McGuire Consulting, at the Fair Work Commission (FWC) for a conciliation hearing. Lifeview, Villa Maria Catholic Homes (VMCH) and mecwacare were among the group of providers represented.
“We’ve been in the Fair Work Commission listening to the bargaining representatives of aged care employers argue against having to be accountable to its employees and their unions about how they spend federal subsidies intended for wage increases,” ANMF (Vic Branch) Assistant Secretary, Paul Gilbert, explained.
“This is the fourth time Federal Governments have funded wage increases in aged care, and the last three times workers received none of it. We are rightly sceptical about shallow unenforceable promises from providers.
“Better wages, improved workloads, as well as providers refraining from cutting nurses and carers’ shifts and hours, are key to fixing the workforce shortages and improving resident care.
“Aged care nurses and personal care workers will feel betrayed and abandoned if history repeats and their aged care employers fail to pass on every dollar of the federal pay rise funding. Employers will not be able to cry wolf again when it comes to wage subsidies.”
Mr Gilbert said a resolution was not achieved in yesterday’s meeting.
The dispute’s severity is heightened by alleged employer threats to cancel existing EBAs, which would see impacted staff placed on award rates as a result.
Nurses and personal care workers affected by the change would receive lower wages, and lose up to 11 days of additional personal leave, paid parental leave and other rewarding entitlements and allowances.
“Over 93 per cent of aged care workers are women and on International Women’s Day, they should be recognised and commended for the outstanding care they give to our elderly, but instead, they are being treated with contempt,” ANMF Federal Secretary, Annie Butler, said.
“It just shows the lengths that some aged care operators will take to avoid paying their workers what they are rightfully entitled to and, frankly, deserve.
“It’s a disgrace that yet again some providers fail to recognise the true value of their workforce. This attitude will do little to grow the workforce so desperately needed to address the aged care crisis.”
Despite this, Ms Butler said there is real hope that the 15% pay increase will help the industry retain and recruit nurses and carers, but only if it’s passed on in full to all aged care workers.
The 15% wage increase will come into effect from June 30 in one lump sum, raising the minimum wage for the Aged Care Award, Nurses Award and Social, Community, Home Care and Disability Services Award (SCHADS Award).
Nurses, personal care workers, head chefs and recreational activities/lifestyle officers will all benefit from the pay boost.
But as many providers have stated, staff are often paid above minimum wage because an EBA is in place. ANMF (Vic Branch) wants reassurance that a fully-funded pay rise will be on top of existing rates for both awards and enterprise agreements.
Mr Gilbert said he does not want to see aged care employers pocketing the difference if they don’t pass on the wage rise.
“It is important to note that the situation is providers will receive government funding to implement a 15% wage increase, but where someone is already getting 15% above the award rate through their EBA, the providers are refusing to dedicate this funding to further wage increases,” Mr Gilbert said.
“This will be the case for most registered nurses and enrolled nurses. For personal care workers, the government may fund 15%, but the employers will only pay 2-6% more.
“We need the Albanese Government and Health and Aged Care Minister Mark Butler to implement a funding accountability mechanism that ensures every single dollar for pay rises is spent on pay rises. We have 114 days to get this right.”