The Hearing for the Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation’s (ANMF) and Health Services Union’s (HSU) landmark applications for a 25 per cent increase to award wages for aged care workers has commenced in the Fair Work Commission.
The ANMF said it makes this application on the basis that the work of aged care workers has never been properly valued.
Guaranteeing wages that genuinely reflect the value of the work, alongside mandated safe staffing and 24 hour registered nurse presence, the ANMF said, will ensure staff are attracted to work in the aged care sector.
In a recent poll conducted by the union, more than 3000 members indicated they would work in the aged care sector if there were a registered nurse on-site 24/7 in nursing homes, guaranteed minimum staffing levels and decent wages, which reflected the complex nature of the work required in aged care.
The poll asked nurses what would make them join or re-join the aged care industry. Their responses were:
- almost 80 per cent said if minimum staffing levels and skills mix were guaranteed;
- more than 70 per cent said if there were a requirement for at least 1 RN on-site at all times; and,
- 50 per cent if there were a 25 per cent pay increase.
ANMF federal secretary Annie Butler, pictured above, said the results confirmed the union’s previous experiences across the country – that once workloads are made safe, and nurses’ work is recognised through decent wages and support for them to provide quality care, they will return to the jobs they love.
The results, she said, also confirm that nurses could be recruited to work and, most importantly, stay in the aged care industry if the Morrison Government acted – and implemented the key recommendations of the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety.
“There are many aged care nurses, who have left the aged care sector because the crisis has simply become too much to bear, but who have told us that they would return to aged care if there were safe workloads, decent wages and support for them to provide quality care.
“And, many more will be attracted to start work in the sector if there are reasonable conditions and competitive pay rates,” Butler said.
“Current award rates simply don’t reflect the value of the work in aged care or how the nature of the work has changed and become more complex, requiring greater skill and responsibility under more difficult conditions.
Butler explained that it is no coincidence that this work, pre-dominantly done by women, has been historically undervalued.
“It’s time for this to change,” she said.
“We are therefore asking the FWC to assess its true value, and the knowledge and skills it requires, and find that a 25 per cent wage increase is justified.
“With fair wages in place, and guaranteed minimum staffing ratios with 24 hour registered nurse presence, we can fix the aged care crisis.”