The government is staring down a key health union after its national boss said workers in the "crumbling" aged care sector would be better off working at KFC.
Health Services Union national president Gerard Hayes said aged care workers couldn't wait two years for their 15 per cent wage rise, with inflation swallowing up any chance of them seeing any bottom-line improvements.
But Health Minister Mark Butler said he was confident the government had struck the right balance, with a 10 per cent increase coming on July 1 after a five per cent rise last year.
Mr Hayes said the government had to revisit the decision and get the pay rise through as quickly as possible, noting three quarters of aged care workers had indicated they'd quit in the next six month unless they get a serious bump.
"This sector is crumbling before our eyes ... an aged care worker can walk across the road and earn more at KFC, Bunnings or in disability care in a flash," he said.
"For people on $22 an hour, an extra $2 an hour by July just won't cut it. That pay rise will be swallowed whole by rents, energy and other price hikes."
HSU members were in Canberra on Wednesday meeting with politicians to directly plead their case.
But Mr Butler stood by the earlier decision, saying aged care workers were in the midst of a "substantial increase" in pay.
"I understand the extraordinarily important work aged care workers do, I've worked with them for three decades now ... watching the degree to which their work has become harder as the profile of aged care residents has changed," he told reporters.
"They have been underpaid for a long period of time for that work. This is not a decision we came to lightly."