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Union attacks providers for blocking wage increases

The Australian Nursing Federation (ANF) has criticised non-profit providers for undermining proposals to improve aged-care workers’ wages.

As part of the federal government’s Living Longer Living Better reforms, the Aged Care Workforce Compact is expected to deliver $1.2 billion to improve wages, training and educational pathways for low-paid aged-care workers.

But ANF federal secretary Lee Thomas said organisations such as Aged and Community Services Australia (ACSA), which represents the not-for-profit and faith-based aged care providers, continue to oppose the new funding model.

In a June newsletter to members, ACSA said: “Noting that the federal election is only ten weeks away and that a Coalition win currently appears likely, members might consider it prudent to await the election outcome before signing the supplement into any new enterprise agreement.”

“How can ACSA CEO John Kelly go on the Lateline program and complain about the sector being ‘chronically underfunded’,” Thomas asked, “when he continues to undermine new funding for the aged-care workforce by actively discouraging providers to sign-up for the [Workforce] Supplement for workers?”

In response, Kelly said the ANF has missed the point of ACSA’s Lateline discussion on July 15 on the funding of residential care. Kelly said he was very supportive of better wages and training for hard-working staff, but that ANF had failed to acknowledge that the $1.2 billion for the Workforce Supplement was money redirected from care funding for residents.

Kelly said the aged-care providers had never agreed to the Workforce Supplement, despite consultations with unions and providers, “because we didn’t support it being locked into industrial processes”.

“Funding should only be provided through a direct arrangement with the government for employers to then pass on to employees,” he said. “We need to be supporting those small, stand-alone aged care facilities in rural, remote and regional areas, and those who look after CALD (culturally and linguistically diverse) and Indigenous communities and the homeless, who have much higher overheads and lower income, and often struggle financially.”

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