Uncertainty remains over the prospect of aged care worker strike action, as the United Workers Union (UWU) continues to poll and consult with members behind the scenes.
Up to 10,000 aged care workers, from six aged care providers across the country, may walk off the job in the coming weeks to demand urgent action from their employers and the Federal Government to alleviate chronic workforce shortages and pay conditions.
A UWU spokeswoman told Aged Care News that deliberations are expected to continue into next week.
“There’s going to be some mass meetings next week, which will then decide what the actions will look like,” she said.
Carolyn Smith, UWU aged care director, said that workers have been pushed to breaking point, having exhausted all other options to be seen and heard.
“Aged care workers are being forced to take unprecedented strike action because of pay and conditions that are failing workers and failing residents.
“Aged care urgently needs to be fixed and aged care workers are taking protected strike action in order to fix it.”
A warning has been issued to Aegis, Western Australia’s largest residential aged care (RAC) provider, after workers voted in favour of going on strike due to concerns over chronic understaffing.
Similarly, workers from Queensland and South Australia’s largest RAC providers, Bluecare and Southern Cross Care, respectively, as well as Anglicare SA; Hall & Prior, WA and Churches of Christ, Queensland – have also voted to take industrial action to address the aged care crisis.
The strike action will represent the first time aged care workers have taken national strike action in protest at their employers’ failures to address low rates of pay and inability to provide adequate staffing levels.
“Aged care workers are fed up with Federal Government failures to address the aged care crisis, so now they are holding their employers to account,” Smith says.
She adds that immediate action is needed to enshrine better conditions for workers, otherwise workforce shortages will only continue to worsen.
“Aged care workers are broken – both mentally and physically – with passionate and experienced carers forced to leave the sector in droves.”
The industrial action endorsed by aged care workers at the six major aged care providers allows indefinite stoppages and other forms of industrial action.
UWU said that it will work closely with providers regarding arrangements to ensure the safety and wellbeing of residents, on top of the union’s legal obligations to give providers several days’ notice about any actions that may be taken.
Aged care workers are able to take industrial action as per their rights under the Fair Work Act 2009 (FW Act).
In order to initiate protected industrial action, a bargaining representative – in this case, the United Workers Union – must apply to the Fair Work Commission for a protected action ballot order.
Written notice of at least three days must also be given to aged care workers’ employer, before the industrial action commences, unless the action is in response to industrial action taken by the employer.