Claims that aged care nurses in NSW and Queensland will lose $300 from their weekly pay as a result of the award modernisation process are unrealistic, according to Aged and Community Services Australia (ACSA) CEO, Greg Mundy.
But Mr Mundy believes that most aged care nurses will not be disadvantaged by the changes, saying that the warnings about severe wage cuts were nothing more than scare tactics.
“I would be really surprised if, in a sellers market for nursing labour, any employer thought it would be a good idea to reduce wages for nurses,” he said.
“Theoretically, aged care providers [in NSW and Queensland] could reduce the wages of their nurses in instalments, down to award rates, but in practice I think that’s very unlikely.”
The issue has arisen because the former state awards in NSW and Queensland were higher than the national minimum pay rates which came into effect in January. In other states, the minimum awards will actually increase.
Mr Mundy said that a significant proportion of aged care nurses in NSW and Queensland were employed under enterprise agreements and so would not be affected by the change.
“An increasing number of our members in NSW are going over to enterprise agreements and in Queensland, a fair few were already so in those cases, the award is not the issue.”
Mr Mundy believes the focus on wage cuts was drawing attention away from the real issues affecting aged care, such as fundamental strucutural reform.
He said the industry is waiting on the government’s response to the National Health and Hospitals Reform Commission (NHHRC) and the Productivity Commission’s aged care review.
“What we would like to see is a clear and firm plan to act on the recommendations of the health and hospitals reform commission,” Mr Mundy said. “We would like to see a package of measures to support the industry through restructuring process that that will engender change, otherwise there will be threats to the continuity of services.
“We are looking to see action rather than words. The words so far have all been good and we don’t want to rush in and get things wrong but we do want to see a firm commitment and the first steps towards change.”