Aged care workers win up to 28 per cent wage rise

ABC News, 15 March 2024

Aged care workers have won their years-long Fair Work case for a wage rise of up to 28 per cent for the entire sector.

In November 2020, the Health Services Union (HSU) filed a work value case with the Fair Work Commission regarding aged care that requested a 25 per cent increase in wages for all employees.

The union argued that the work had been undervalued due to its growing complexity and the fact that it was primarily performed by female workers.

The commission awarded an interim pay rise of 15 per cent to direct care employees in 2022, but the union maintained wages were still insufficient and would not address a critical shortage of aged care workers.

The hourly wage for direct care workers will increase between 18 and 28 per cent, inclusive of the previous 15 per cent, resulting in a significant impact on pay.

Support service workers, including laundry personnel, cleaners, and food service assistants, are expected to experience a 6.8 per cent increase in employment as a result of improved wages and reclassification.

"This is an historic improvement that will usher in a new era of decency and dignity in our aged care homes," HSU national president Gerard Hayes said.

"For the last decade aged care has been held together by the goodwill and commitment of a severely underpaid, insecurely employed workforce. Today, those workers have won wage justice."

Higher wages was a key recommendation of the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety, which found overwork, neglect from staff shortages and abuse of elderly residents was rife throughout the system.

But the sector is already struggling to provide adequate services, even with the significant government funding it receives.

A federal government task force recently reported on how to reform the sector for the future, including recommendations to make wealthier Australians pay more for their care.

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said he learnt from the royal commission into aged care that "we need to pay our aged care workers more, in order to keep and retain staff".

"It is vital that our older Australians get dignity and respect in the later years. The workers who look after them deserve respect as well and they deserve better pay."

He said the government would examine any finding that comes down.

"We have already increased aged care workers wages by 15 per cent and we will always work with our aged care workforce in order to improve the life of people who looked after this country for such a long period of time," Mr Albanese said on Friday afternoon.