Australia’s aged care workers are fighting for a 25 per cent wage increase in a landmark case.
Should the Health Services Union’s (HSU) “historic” work value case bear fruit, all aged care workers’ pay would rise by at least $5 per hour.
The hourly rate for a qualified personal carer would increase from $23.09 to $28.86 an hour.
The union’s NSW branch said: “These women who provide care and support for the most frail and vulnerable in our community often retire into poverty after a working life in low paid insecure work.
“It is unacceptable.”
The average carer retires with $18,000 in superannuation, HSU claimed.
The union argued aged care workers are just above minimum wage and paid less in some categories than petrol station attendants and supermarket clerks.
Increases in award wages was one of 124 recommendations made by the royal commission lawyers in their final submissions.
In its report, the counsel assisting said substantial increases in aged care wages will only happen if all parties – providers, unions and government – work together.
The first part of that process, the lawyers recommended, was a work value case by the Fair Work Commission that examines the terms and conditions in the relevant awards.
In the meantime, they said the Australian Government and provider representative bodies should support a significant increase to the relevant award rates in the 2020–21 Annual Wage Review and each subsequent review.
Secretary Gerard Hayes said a significant increase in wages would create more stable and long-term career paths while finally acknowledging the importance of specialist carers in areas like dementia or palliative care.
“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,” Hayes said.
“They should be recognised and paid for their skills. This would be a post-pandemic stimulus package.”
He said a more equitable pay rate for carers would prevent a massive leaking of the workforce, with a recent survey revealing about 40 per cent of all carers would leave the industry after just five years.
“This pay rise is an issue of justice, but it also goes to the sustainability of the system,” Hayes said.
“Four in 10 aged care workers intend to leave the sector within the next five years because they are at breaking point.
“A workforce crisis is coming unless we see a significant boost to pay.”Do you have an idea for a story?
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