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Aged care workers unlikely to benefit from minimum wage increase

Aged care workers are unlikely to benefit from the Fair Work Commission’s decision to increase the minimum wage for low paid workers, according to the nation’s largest nursing and care worker union.

Nurses and nursing assistants, including those working in aged care, receive 20 percent less wages than those working in the public sector (Source: Shutterstock)
Nurses and nursing assistants, including those working in aged care, receive 20 percent less wages than those working in the public sector (Source: Shutterstock)

This week the Fair Work Commission ruled to grant a 3.3 percent increase in the minimum wage for low paid workers, equating to an extra $22 per week, which affects aged care workers, care staff and nurses.

The Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation (ANMF), who represent the needs of aged care workers and care staff, yesterday announced that the increase is well below the $45 increase unions have been seeking for workers in the sector.

ANMF Acting Federal Secretary Annie Butler says nurses and nursing assistants, including those working in aged care, are already struggling to make ends meet as they receive 20 percent less wages than those working in the public sector or those covered by Enterprise Bargaining Agreements.

“As the country’s largest union, the ANMF is extremely disappointed by the Commission’s decision to lift the minimum wage by just 3.3 percent,” says Ms Butler.

“This minimal increase in the weekly minimum wage will do precious little in addressing the wage disparity between award-dependent nurses, midwives and care staff and the rest of the nursing and midwifery workforce on Enterprise Bargaining Agreements earning much more.

“Our members’ working conditions continue to be under threat of cuts to their penalty rates and today’s decision again fails to acknowledge the crucial work they provide in health and aged care.”

The issue of wages for aged care workers has been a touchy one lately, with staff from a number facilities around the country taking matters into their own hands.

Workers at the Echuca Bupa Aged Care home in Victoria have been caught up in a wage dispute with their employer and have been encouraged by the ANMF to reject the provider’s recent offer of a 2.3 percent wage increase.

Carers at the Wynyard Care Centre in New South Wales recently protested against their employer Synovum Care Group, with whom they have been trying to negotiate a new agreement since 2013. The workers, who have received an outpouring of support from the community, rejected a pay rise of 7.5 percent last month, citing gaps in the company’s proposal.

Chief Executive Officer for Aged and Community Services Australia (ACSA) Pat Sparrow says the reality of the Fair Work Commission’s decision is that it puts further pressure on providers at a time when funding is constrained and reform is constant.

“Our dedicated aged care workers need to be recognised for the important work they do each and every day,” Ms Sparrow says.

“Aged care providers require an environment that provides funding certainty and confidence to enable them to continue to invest in our aged care workforce.

“ACSA will continue to strongly advocate for increased funding, including public and private contributions, and regulatory settings to support these outcomes.”

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