Health Services Union takes aged care catering business to court over underpaid staff

The Australian, 29 May 2022

Major aged care union has taken an aged care catering service to the Federal Court for not paying penalty rates to staff on weekends.

The Health Services Union commenced “precedent-setting” legal action on Saturday to prevent aged care operator, Catering Industries, from engaging catering staff under the hospitality award while working in an aged care facility.

The case is centred on staff at a Port Botany aged facility who have insisted it is their right to bargain under the Aged Care Award despite the refusal of Catering Industries to accommodate.
“We saw through the Royal Commission just how important food is, with residents in some facilities being served jelly and frankfurts,” HSU National President Gerard Hayes said.

“The endless splintering of the workforce undermines the bargaining position of all aged care staff and keeps wages rock bottom.”

The base rate of pay is lower under the hospitality award and weekend penalty rates are 25 per cent higher under the aged care award.

A full time cook who has worked in aged care for 13 years will be around $4200 a year worse off in wages.

While a full time supervisor managing an aged care kitchen working the same shifts is $3175 worse off.

This is before either of them have done any overtime or worked a public holiday.

“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,” Mr Hayes said.

“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”

The HSU is also pursuing legal action with the Fair Work Commission to raise wages industry-wide by 25 per cent.