The Health Services Union (HSU) has commenced a precedent-setting legal push to prevent aged care operators slashing pay by engaging catering staff under the hospitality award through labour hire operators.
The union will take catering, cleaning and laundry company Catering Industries to the Federal Court, insisting it should pay its employees under the aged care award rather than the hospitality award when the employee works in an aged care facility.
Weekend penalty rates are 25 per cent higher under the aged care award. Base rates are also lower under the hospitality award.
Presently a full time cook who has worked in aged care for 13 years Tuesday to Saturday is just shy of $4200 ($4195) a year worse off in wages.
A full time supervisor who has oversight of an aged care kitchen working the same shifts (Tue-Sat) is $3175 a year worse off in wages.
This is before either of them have done any overtime or worked a public holiday.
The drop in wages is even more profound for casual employees.
HSU anticipates the gap will widen if its separate case for a 25 per cent increase in aged care wages succeeds in the Fair Work Commission.
HSU national president Gerard Hayes said the best interests of residents were better served through keeping catering in-house.
“We saw through the royal commission just how important food is, with residents in some facilities being served jelly and frankfurts,” Hayes said.
“It’s simply astounding that Catering Industries is trying to bolster its legal position by arguing that it bans its staff from communicating with residents.
“How on Earth can they be attentive to the needs of residents if they are banned from communicating with them?
Hayes said aged care’s ‘race to the bottom’ must end.
“The endless splintering of the workforce undermines the bargaining position of all aged care staff and keeps wages rock bottom,” he said.
“Aged care residents requires holistic care and to deliver that you need a holistic workforce.
“You can’t carve out catering or cleaning from care and health.
“The same employer should be responsible for the vast bulk of the aged care effort.
“Some catering companies might argue they have seasonal or event based work. But the nutrition needs of our elderly do not stop and start; they require constant attention.”
The HSU case arises from members at a Port Botany aged care site insisting on their right to bargain under the Aged Care Award, which Catering Industries refused to accomodate.