Aug 19, 2020

Worker pressure mounts as SA government bans working at two facilities

Aged care workers in South Australia are not allowed to work at two facilities within 14 days of each other, in pursuit of reducing the potential spread of the coronavirus. United Workers Union aged care director Carolyn Smith says this will significantly hurt the industry.

“We are seeing members who face huge financial and emotional penalties from this decision,” Smith says.

“If a household is losing $1000 a week, you know that means money for essentials will be hit hard. This hasty decision is even threatening some workers’ ability to stay in Australia,” she says.

“Aged care workers have been turning up every day to protect Australia’s most vulnerable during this crisis. Instead of rewarding aged care workers, you are punishing workers by cutting their jobs with no plan to address shortfalls.”

“You need to support Australia’s aged care workers so they can continue to work on the frontline.”

Justine is an aged care worker directly impacted by the ban.

“Of course we support preventing the spread of the coronavirus, but I don’t think the ban is a good decision,” he says.

“My wife also works in aged care. But say I work in facility A and my wife works in facility B, we share a home so it doesn’t matter. We are both PPE trained and doing everything we can to be safe. I think we are doing a great job.”

There are severe staff shortages in aged care, pushed by the impacts of the coronavirus. The ban inevitably will add to the challenge for aged care providers.

In a 2018 HESTA report titled ‘Transforming Aged Care’, 30 percent of surveyed aged care workers said they would move employers if they weren’t receiving enough hours. The ban has the potential to exacerbate this.

“I work in two facilities and neither know how long the ban will last. I will probably have to change industries. I have two kids and cannot live on one job in aged care.”

“The homes are also begging us to choose them as the one we work at.”

The ban also has significant implications on the personal and financial lives of aged care workers. Justine has been in Australia for six years. He’s on a temporary visa and has worked hard during his time in Australia to reach permanent resident status. He must earn above $54000 to achieve that, which he doesn’t think he’ll be able to now.

He estimates the impacts of the ban means he and his wife will lose $1200 of income a week. After paying the mortgage, car loans and food, they will be left with about $100 a fortnight to pay on bills.

“If the government wants us to work one job, it should make up the money we will lose.”

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