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Paid vaccine leave for aged care workers must be guaranteed: HSU

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The Health Services Union (HSU) says the Government’s plan to make vaccinations mandatory for aged care care workers will see the workforce crumble unless workers have an ironclad right to paid leave to receive the jab and recover.

The union said the industry is already suffering through a protracted attraction and retention crisis due to rock bottom wages of $21 an hour.

Vaccination of aged care workers will be made mandatory under a move endorsed by the National Cabinet last night.

The decision comes as Australia’s coronavirus outbreaks have reignited calls for vaccinations to be increased amid concern about the highly contagious Delta strain sweeping the country.

The leaders endorsed mandatory vaccination for aged care workers, in a bid to complete what was supposed to be the first phase of the rollout.

“This is not something any government should do lightly … we have been considering this matter for some time now based on the best possible medical advice,” Morrison said.

Of the 910 deaths in Australia from COVID-19, 685 have been aged care residents.

Morrison said the aim of the mandatory plan was to complete the aged care vaccination rollout by mid-September, through a combination of state health orders and commonwealth measures.

In a bid to ensure there are no unintended consequences, such as aged care workers leaving the sector, the Federal Government said it will provide $11 million to allow facilities to provide paid leave to staff to be vaccinated.

Gerard Hayes, HSU National President, said providing money to employers to possibly encourage workers to get vaccinated is not good enough.

“This policy has more holes than a piece of Swiss cheese,” he said.

“Workers, including casuals, need an ironclad right to paid leave to get vaccinated and recover.”

Hayes said the Prime Minister’s announcement last night will worsen the wages crisis unless the Federal Government recognises its reality.

“Rather than barking orders the Commonwealth needs to understand the reality of aged care,” he said.

“This is a workforce of insecure, underemployed women who often stitch together several casual jobs to make a living.

“They are leaving in droves.”

ACTU President Sally McManus said on Twitter that while the Federal Government is mandating vaccines for aged care workers, there is no plan for how they will get vaccinated other than giving employers $30/worker per jab – with no teams visiting aged care homes and no extra supply.

“If you are making vaccines compulsory because you have failed to deliver the rollout, the least the Federal Government can do is support aged care workers with choice of vaccine, paid time off and at work vaccination teams,” she said.

Hayes said the Federal Government had bungled the rollout, dragged its heels and allowed misinformation to fester.

“Now it wants to blame aged care workers for not being vaccinated. That takes quite a hide,” he said.

“Scott Morrison and Richard Colbeck simply do not understand this workforce and they haven’t tried.

“This edict will worsen the attraction and retention crisis in aged care.”

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