Is it OK to pay aged care workers $22 per hour?
Southcare is calling for immediate change with the 2022 Federal Budget failing the aged care industry once again.
Denying wage increases for front line workers means the national endorsement of $22 is an embarrassingly acceptable hourly renumeration to deliver essential services to help our most vulnerable.
Southcare Chief Executive Officer Dr Nicky Howe said it was abhorrent to deny an increase after extensive lobbying, national staff shortages and increasing demands for care.
“The Aged Care Royal Commission showed how the system is failing older people – and told us how to fix it with very clear instruction to increase wages for our aged care workers.
“Accepting $22 an hour for this work means all of Australia is unwillingly complicit in this crime,” Dr Howe said.
“It is only when our mother or father needs care we are perturbed by the reality of the aged care crisis. Only then do we experience the broken system. Only then we experience the effects of the Federal Government’s market model for aged care which has led to high and increasing casualisation and job insecurity, particularly in home care,” she said.
Dr Howe said the $AUD800 promise from the Federal Government between now and May for aged care workers is both dishonest and nothing more than a short-term political “fix” designed to cover over a long-term policy failure.
“What the public don’t realise is this bonus is for aged care workers who work in residential aged care. Staff who work in community care only get a maximum of $600 and only if they are caring for customers who have a home care package,” she said.
“For our staff, the maximum received is just $480, a long way away from the “$800 promise”.
Furthermore, this current Government’s inaction leading to systemic failures (as identified by the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety) has not addressed the workforce issues.
At a recent national meeting of senior staff, it was disturbing to hear how many senior leaders with years of experience declaring they are leaving the sector.
At their core, they can no longer accept being treated with contempt by the Federal Government’s Department of Health. This loss of talent will make the aged care reform agenda even more precarious for senior Australians.
The Fair Work Commission is still considering a 25% pay increase, after aged care worker unions put their case for a pay rise forward in November 2020. The Federal Government should explicitly state it will fund whatever the independent umpire determines is a fair day’s pay for a fair day’s aged care work.
Women make up more than 80% of the aged care workforce. About a fifth of the workers have culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds. Their work is often devalued as “women’s work”, with expectations they will work unpaid additional time, split shifts and highly variable hours.
Not surprisingly, it’s increasingly difficult to attract and retain staff. Most staffing categories in aged care now have vacancy rates above 10% and staff turnover of between a quarter and a third each year.
The Federal Government’s mis-management of the COVID-19 crisis in residential aged care has made the problem worse. COVID-19 infections in aged care facilities are now widespread, leading to severe workforce shortages and risks to the quality of care. Basic preventive measures such as the use of boosters for residents, Rapid Antigen Tests and the delivery of proper masks remains problematic.
So, who will be around to care for the increasing number of senior Australians who increasingly require care?
Will you care about aged care? Will you help us effect change?
Southcare is urging everyone to use their caring hands to sign the petition at careaboutagedcare.org.au to help us transform Australia’s aged care system into one that can give people the care they deserve and make it hard for politicians to ignore the change we need.
Join us. It’s time to care about aged care.