Landmark case to lift aged care wages begins Tuesday

Mirage News, 25 April 2022

One of the most significant wage cases in recent history kicks off on Tuesday as the Health Services Union seeks to lift the wages of aged care workers by 25 per cent.

The first hearings in the HSU work value case will be held at the Fair Work Commission at 80 William Street, East Sydney. HSU National President, Gerard Hayes and Maurice Blackburn lawyer, Alex Grayson will be joined by rank and file aged care members to address media immediately prior at 9am.

The case covers personal care workers, recreational activities officers, catering, cleaning, administration, and other staff.

Entry level personal care workers are currently paid as little as $21.96 per hour. The HSU case seeks to lift wages between $5.40 and $7.20 per hour to increase the average wage to $29 per hour.

HSU will argue the work of the aged care workforce is more complex and demanding than ever before.

“Aged care workers have endured horrendous working conditions over the last five years,” said Gerard Hayes, HSU National President. “The funding is just not there to support the level of care older Australians deserve.

“The pandemic turned a desperate situation into a full-blown crisis. Aged care workers have strived to provide care but they’ve been hopelessly understaffed and worked long stretches without access to vaccines or protective equipment. The workforce has carried the cost of a callous, tight-fisted government that simply doesn’t care.

“This case is about rebalancing the scales and giving the long-suffering aged care workforce the decency and dignity it deserves.”

The HSU application also sets out an improved career structure through the introduction of a Specialist Personal Care Worker, trained to work in specialist areas like dementia and palliative care.

In its interim report Neglect, the Aged Care Royal Commission found that the aged care workforce was undervalued, understaffed and under resourced.

And in its final submission, Counsel Assisting the Aged Care Royal Commission recommended that:

41.1 Employee organisations entitled to represent the industrial interests of aged care employees covered by the Aged Care Award 2010, the Social, Community, Home Care and Disability Services Industry Award 2010 and the Nurses Award 2010 should collaborate with the Australian Government and employers and apply to vary wage rates in those awards to:

a. reflect the work value of aged care employees in accordance with section 158 of the Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth)

According to recent polling by JWS Research for the HSU, a strong majority (62 per cent) of Australians believe Federal Government funding for aged care should be increased, with only 15 per cent believing it is about right, three per cent wanting a decrease, and 19 per cent undecided.

The poll also revealed 71 per cent of Australians support a 25 per cent increase for all aged care workers when also told this is equivalent to an increase of between $5.40 and $7.20 per hour to increase the average wage to $29 per hour. Only seven per cent are opposed while 21 per cent are neutral or undecided.