Nov 12, 2020

“These women are working themselves into poverty”: Union seeks 25% pay rise for aged care workers

 

The Health Services Union is launching a ‘work value’ case in the Fair Work Commission, with the aim of delivering aged care workers a wage increase of at least $5 an hour – the equivalent of around a 25 per cent increase.

The HSU will argue working in the aged care sector has become more complex due to the needs of Australia’s ageing population and the evolution of community expectations of care.

The application will seek to introduce a new level of employment to work in specialist areas of aged care, such as in dementia and palliative care.

If the case succeeds, more than 200,000 personal carers, activities officers, catering, cleaning, and administration staff could receive significant pay increases.

For example, the hourly rate of a qualified personal carer would increase to $28.86 from $23.09. The current starting rate for unqualified personal carers is $21.96 an hour. 

“Aged care in this country has relied for too long on the goodwill of an underpaid and insecure workforce of women. It’s time for change,” said Health Services Union national president, Gerard Hayes.

“These women are working themselves into poverty,” he said. The average carer retires with $18,000 in superannuation.

“People working stacking shelves in Coles or Woolworths would be paid more… [aged care] wages are so low,” Mr Hayes told The Sydney Morning Herald.

Aged care workers at breaking point

Four in 10 aged care workers are at “breaking point” and intend to leave the sector within five years, Mr Hayes said.

“A workforce crisis is coming unless we see a significant boost to pay.”

“Aged care workers are skilled. They provide care and support to our most vulnerable, to residents enduring episodes of sadness and at times anger. They should be recognised and paid for their skills.”

“They provide care and support to our most vulnerable, to residents enduring episodes of sadness and, at times, anger.”

Royal commission also recommended pay rise

The Interim Report of the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety recommended awards covering the aged care sector should be changed to increase pay.

“The aged care sector suffers from severe difficulties in recruiting and retaining staff. Workloads are heavy. Pay and conditions are poor, signalling that working in aged care is not a valued occupation,” the report stated.

Counsels assisting the royal commission, in their final recommendation to the commissioners recommended “improved remuneration for aged care workers”.

“In setting prices for aged care, the Aged Care Pricing Authority should take into account the need to attract sufficient staff with the appropriate skills to the sector, noting that relative remuneration levels are an important driver of employment choice,” the report said.

The Aged Care Workforce Taskforce found personal care workers are paid 15 per cent less than their counterparts working elsewhere in the healthcare sector.

Image: Jacob Lund, iStock.

 

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  1. If they knew the heavy loads that care workers try to manage every day they would give them at least another $10 a day.
    It is really a disgrace they need far more staff to manage the poor patients/residents. Our aged population is suffering.

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