Aged care workers from five major providers took nationwide action this week to protest “horrifying” workplace conditions and poor wages.
On Tuesday, nearly 4500 aged care workers in Queensland, South Australia and WA walked off the job at 11:30 am before attending lunchtime rallies across the states.
Some of Australia's biggest aged care facilities, including Uniting Care, Regis, Aegis and Churches of Christ were affected.
Aged care director of the United Workers Union Carolyn Smith said staff felt they had “no choice” but to send a message to their employers.
“Aged care workers have been pushed to do double and triple shifts, facing dire conditions in PPE and no let-up insight in many facilities,” she said.
“Covid was just the latest burden in an aged care system already in crisis.”
Around 1700 staff from Southern Cross Care had their strike action delayed by the Fair Work Commission due to welfare concerns for residents.
South Australian aged care workers are expected to strike a day after the federal election.
Colbeck talks workforce, wages
In one of his first public appearances during the election, Aged Care Services Minister Senator Richard Colbeck gave an interview with COTA yesterday about the Liberals' plan for aged care.
One of the first topics brought up for discussion was his response to last year’s royal commission.
“It’s probably been one of the most important pieces of work I’ve ever done in my political career,” Colbeck said.
“The new funding model and the assessment of the cost of delivery of care is a complete game-changer.”
During the interview, led by Council on the Ageing (COTA) president Ian Yates, Colbeck said a re-elected Coalition would back a wage rise for aged care workers.
He then rebuffed Labor’s criticisms of his government’s refusal to support the ongoing Fair Work Commission wage case.
“Making sure that the workforce are properly remunerated is very important,” he said.
Colbeck said the Coalition's funding model would “incorporate a regular assessment of the cost of delivery of care, including workforce”.
When asked about retention strategies, Colbeck said his government would “facilitate some recruitment from overseas.”
Health department modelling predicts that Australia will need an extra 14,000 nurses to meet commitments to have registered nurses in aged care homes for 16-hours a day by 2023.
To meet Labor’s 24-hour a day nurse mandate, an additional 2500 nurses would be required.
Opposition leader Anthony Albanese has also pledged to recruit nurses and aged care workers from overseas if elected May 21.
Neither major party has outlined the details of how an overseas recruitment drive would work.
Shadow Minister for Families and Social Services Linda Burney is expected to join COTA next week to discuss Labor's plan for social services.Do you have an idea for a story?
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