By Yasmin Noone
There's one way to gauge public opinion on a matter and that's to go on Twitter to find out what aged care advocates saying. The bulk of the Twitter comments below from politicians, concerned members of the public and key stakeholders were made online on Tuesday, 5 March, the day of the Workforce Compact announcement.
Now I've a vested interest in aged care, I encourage young Aussies to seek work in that sector & encourage Govts. raise pay.
Robert Oakeshott MP @OakeyMP
Concerned at reports that aged care funding is now being tied to industrial relations reform. That is not how aged care reform should be done
Melissa Young @MelissaPHCS
Small aged care providers will be hard pressed to afford to sign up for the workforce compact #agedcare
Melissa Young @MelissaPHCS
Taking $ from services to elders to pay for a workforce compact-How is that "reform"? #agedcare
Nieves Murray @nievesmurray
Chatting on @973ABCIllawarra today about agedcare workforce compact. We welcome it. More training, fair remuneration. It's the @IRTgroup way
[Follow AAA on Twitter @AustAgeingAgenda]
Industry reaction over the Workforce Compact is clearly divided at the moment. Read who's pro and anti the federal government's recently announced Workforce Compact.
Personal carer, Melanie O’Gorman from Brisbane. She is a United Voice union delegate and has worked in residential aged care for six years.
“The compact is a step in the right direction,” Ms O’Gorman said.
“We’ve been pushing wage increases for a long time as there is a need to be recognised for the skills we have.
“With higher wages there’s more incentive to stay there [in the job] because at the moment, wages don’t meet day-to-day expenses. It doesn’t pay the bills. Finally, the government has realised and listened and [agreed to] pump money in to keep skilled workers.
“I love my job but I hate the pay. Lucky I am married so there are two incomes coming in but a lot of people have to survive on the one [low wage from aged care].
“..We feel that now, finally, the government has realised need to do something.
“It’s only a small increase but it’s only a start.”
WA-based aged care provider, Amana Living
Amana Living CEO, Ray Glickman said the $1.2 billion four-year government spend will do “nothing to create a sustainable aged care sector in WA”
“The funding was included in the federal government’s aged care reform package, Living Longer, Living Better, announced last year, which was closely followed by a $500 million cut to residential aged care subsidies.
“The funding announced has been created by stripping money from the care of our frail older people. Not only that but the only way to re-access these care funds will be via deals with unions.
“Our frail elderly are being sold short, and this redirection of existing funding, by adding further pressure to an industry at breaking point, will inevitably impact on the wellbeing of the most vulnerable in our society.
“…Aged care staff are wonderful people who deserve to be paid more. But the only way this can happen is for the Commonwealth Government to fund the aged care sector in a sustainable fashion. More smoke-and-mirrors tricks and union deals will not cut it.”
Seniors advocacy group, COTA Australia
COTA Australia’s chief executive, Ian Yates, said the compact announcement goes “at least a small way” towards acknowledging that aged care nurses, who don’t get paid on par with their hospital colleagues, are worthy of higher pay.
“Between now and 2050 Australia will need an extra 500,000 aged care workers – how will we attract them if we don't pay them well and provide the same working conditions as in other sectors?,” Mr Yates asked.
COTA also welcomes the government’s intention to convene a broader workforce working group to develop an Aged Care Workforce Development Plan.
“While the wage issue is paramount there also need to be improved conditions more broadly for our precious aged care workforce including better career structures and pathways and improved training and education.
“It is heartening to see the government moving in this direction.”
The workforce reforms were called for by the National Aged Care Alliance, of which COTA is a member, in its Blueprint for Aged Care Reform.
Aged care union, the Australian Nursing Federation (ANF)
The ANF welcomed the compact and commended the government on its commitment to tackling the crisis within the aged care sector, significantly the low wages being paid to nurses and care staff.
ANF federal secretary, Lee Thomas, said: “The compact will provide a real morale boost to aged care workers and delivers most of what aged care unions had sought throughout compact negotiations between unions, aged care providers and consumer groups.
“…The wage increases delivered through enterprise bargaining is the first time in many years that federal government money has been directed straight into aged care workers pockets. It is a fantastic start for aged care workers and the people they care for.”
Peak body for non-profit and for profit aged and community care and retirement living providers, Leading Age Services (LASA)
LASA, unions and the government spent many months in negotiations in order to deliver wage increases to some of Australia’s lowest paid workers.
CEO of LASA, Patrick Reid, believes that “the compact has failed” at a time when staff availability and quality is the critical issue and will continue to be so for the long-term.
The compact is strikingly similar to aged care reforms, is “tinkering at the edges and will not address the real issues faced by the industry”.
“LASA supports an age service workforce that is appropriately paid and well trained but how can this happen with an industry that is put under even greater financial pressure,” Mr Reid said.
“Workers need secure appropriately paid jobs. In age care high quality services are virtually impossible to implement when funding in no way matches the daily demands of resident care or services required.
“Aged services is similar to healthcare, when systemic change is needed the whole system must be looked at, every piece of the puzzle must be taken into account and this has not happened in age services, again the needs of the central players, older Australians have been shunted off to one side.”
“…This government is not providing care based on need it is delivering a system of aged services with an imposed fiscal limit. This is why every 73 minutes another Australian is denied access to aged care.”
Aged care peak body ACSWA (Aged & Community Services WA)
CEO of the ACSWA, Stephen Kobelke, said: “As a matter of principle, ACSWA does not support a framework that diminishes aged care funding to providers in order to channel funds to supplement wage increases.
“Taking money from consumer entitlement to channel to staff wages is inappropriate, particularly in a consumer-focused environment.
“This decision will have significant impacts on the sustainability of providers and the level of care delivered to the frailest and most vulnerable members of our community.
“And we are particularly concerned about the capacity of small, independent, rural and remote aged care providers to satisfy the requirements to access this funding and hope the Government is prepared to assist this group.”
The government’s package also creates an obligation for aged care providers to fund up to a further $3 in wages for each $1 on offer from the government, in addition to implementing new industrial provisions which will have both a financial and administrative impact.
“With this announcement, the government is making a range of assumptions about capacity and viability that does not recognise the diversity in the WA sector and the struggle of our State’s regional service providers.
“Sooner or later, either the Gillard Government or the next will need to bite the bullet and provide new, not redirected, funding for aged care wage increases.”
Aged care union, United Voice
President of United Voice, Michael Crosby, said: “This compact is a good start to supporting those who support some of Australia’s most vulnerable workers, 90 per cent of whom are women over 45 who work part time.
“The aged care workforce is one of the fastest growing sectors of the economy as our ageing population continues to grow.
“But over this decade Australia faces a shortage of 105,000 age care workers.
“The core of the problem is the poor wages and working conditions of this profession.
“The $1.2b commitment by Government will provide wages relief for some of Australia’s lowest paid workers and will help attract staff back to the industry and encourage others to stay.”
CHA CEO, Martin Laverty, said the success of the compact will be determined by the number of providers who take it up. It will suit some providers, and not suit others.
“It would be unfortunate if some aged care staff miss out on pay increases or receive smaller increases as a result.”
Mr Laverty said two elements of the compact will ultimately determine how many aged care providers sign on to its conditions.
“The first element is the government’s requirement that an aged care provider operating 50 beds or more must enter into or amend their existing enterprise agreement to ensure compliance with a set of government objectives.
“A government contract for services should not in our view stipulate an industrial outcome. Aged care providers and their staff should be free to determine above award employment arrangements at a local level, reflecting the circumstances in their workplace.
“The minister, however, deserves credit for having made concessions in response to arguments CHA put to him. Community aged care providers without enterprise agreements will not need one, nor will residential care providers of 50 beds or less.
“The second element will be determined by maths. Every aged care service is different, and their income and expenditure varies. Some aged care providers will do the sums and find they can meet the new wage, superannuation and work cover insurance costs.
“Other providers will find they are not able to fund the costs the Compact imposes. It’s not clear how many aged care providers might end up in this category – that’s a matter of great concern.
“The work of nursing and care staff in aged care is so important. They deserve higher wages in line with those in the health sector. This will only happen when the Government adopts a funding system for aged care that supports fair and competitive wages, as recommended by the Productivity Commission.
“As a first step, pending research into what it now costs to deliver aged care services, the government has an opportunity to better index funding in the 2013-14 budget.”