Aged care workers call for higher wages in Fair Work Commission case

9 News, 26 April 2022

Aged care workers are taking their fight for better pay and conditions to the Fair Work Commission with hearings beginning in Sydney this morning.

The Health Services Union (HSU) is seeking a 25 per cent wage increase for aged care workers after the sector has faced extensive staff shortages and a rise in high care residents over the past decade.

"A 25 per cent wage increase is what aged care workers need to be able to give that dignity and respect and care to the people who put us in the position we're in today," Health Services Union President Gerard Hayes said.

Entry-level personal care workers are now paid as little as $21.96 an hour.

Now in the Fair Work Commission case, the HSU is seeking an increase of between $5.40 and $7.20 per hour for an average wage of $29 per hour.

"You have to meet special requirements for lots of people, lots of vulnerable old people," aged care worker Mark Castieau told 9News.

"It's actually a highly skilled job, but it's paid as if it's a menial job."

The most recent data has shown the rise in workloads aged care workers are facing.

Overall between 2009 and 2019 those needing high-level care went from just four per cent of all aged care residents to 31 per cent.

Those with complex health needs quadrupled from 13 per cent to 52 per cent of residents.

Meanwhile, residents with cognitive and behavioural issues rose from 36 per cent to 64 per cent and those who needed support with the activities of daily living jumped from 33 per cent to 60 per cent.

"The wages of aged care workers both in residential aged care and home care haven't been looked at by the Fair Work Commission for decades, if ever," Alex Grayson from Maurice Blackburn Lawyers said.

A decision from the case is not expected until later this year.

It comes as the aged care sector awaits more commitments by parties bidding for the top spot in the upcoming federal election.

The federal budget committed $20.1 million to aged care reform.

During the reply to the federal budget, Labor leader Anthony Albanese pledged $2.5 billion to the struggling aged care sector.