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Older Aussies ‘penny pinched’

Just who is the “real winner” in the federal government’s pay rise announcement last week, Baptistcare WA chief executive, Dr Lucy Morris, is asking? “Probably the federal government and the unions – not employees or the older Australians seeking aged support services,” Dr Morris claims.

Just who is the “real winner” in the federal government’s pay rise announcement last week, Baptistcare WA chief executive, Dr Lucy Morris, is asking?

“Probably the federal government and the unions – not employees or the older Australians seeking aged support services,” Dr Morris claims.

“The announcement on the Workforce Supplement does not have the support of not for profit community providers who will have to find all the extra money to top up this “poorly designed” increase,” she adds.

According to Dr Morris, older Australians should feel “short changed” as the apparent increase in wages comes from money originally intended for direct care. It was reportedly deducted at the start of the 2012-2013 financial year and the care arrangements will feel the impact for years to come, she claims.  

“The announcement of a $1.2 billion increase is only possible because the federal government withdrew money ear-marked for direct care and quality services in 2012 and is now re-directing it towards wages instead.

“In addition, not for profit employers are being asked to pay these wages based on old fashioned notions of current workplace terms and conditions of employment. It also underestimates and fails to recognise in many instances, that the wages being paid are already well above the modern award and negotiations already in hand in the sector.”

The federal government has also carefully “penny pinched” by requiring community not for profit employers to reportedly cover all the ‘on-costs’ for the staff costing employers up to 25% extra on top of all wages budgets.     

“The Workforce Supplement announced by the federal government comes with significant strings attached – including the requirement to sign enterprise agreements with unions through a ‘Workforce Compact’ in order to access any of this ‘additional’ funding. 

“The Minister insert name in brackets has also not been totally open in his announcement; not for profit providers have not and do not support these ongoing funding cuts to care provision through this reallocation of money or the insistence on the old fashioned determination of wages and negotiations.”

To add insult to injury, Dr Morris says the aged care sector and in particular Aged and Community Services WA (ACSWA) and its national peak body Aged and Community Services Australia have been saying for months that not for profit providers in rural and regional communities will not be able to access the Workforce Compact as it does not provide sufficient additional resources for those aged care providers in these communities.

“They are already beginning to exit the sector; this will continue unabated and choices will be reduced as older Australians will have to leave their communities to find care.

“Over the past 12 months Baptistcare in WA has been approached by a number of providers to acquire their aged care facilities as they are choosing to exit the industry.

“The ageing population is growing and, in turn, so does demand for aged care services.  However, this example illustrates the federal government’s reforms are negatively impacting the industry and more importantly, negatively impacting the lives of older Australians.”

The federal government continues to treat the sector with contempt and older Australians with a breathtaking lack of understanding, Dr Morris says. “Staff and older Australians will continue to feel the brunt of this poor decision making.

“What we have is death by a thousand cuts to the not for profit sector, to rural and regional services, to choices by older Australians, reduced quality of care, and the much needed, urgent increases to wages are coming at the cost of care and reduced funding to employers.

“The sums just don’t add up.  It feels dishonest and unhelpful. Notforprofit organisations are leaving the sector, staff are leaving services, and older Australians are being given reduced choices.”

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