South Australian aged care provider Eldercare has denied union claims it is sacking personal care workers who choose to work for another aged care provider.
The United Workers Union issued a statement on Friday to say that Eldercare was forcing employees to resign should they choose to primarily work for another provider.
However, Eldercare said it contacted these employees to ask their intentions and invite them to request further unpaid leave if their circumstances warranted it.
Under current COVID-19 restrictions, South Australian aged care staff are only allowed to work at one facility to limit the risk of coronavirus spreading between facilities.
The UWU said in statement that “Eldercare is effectively sacking essential aged care workers who have worked throughout the pandemic, telling them they must resign from their positions if they have another aged care job.”
The UWU aged care director Carolyn Smith condemned Eldercare’s decision.
“Eldercare cutting these workers’ jobs highlights the complete lack of respect management have for the workers who have carried them through the COVID-19 crisis,” Ms Smith said in a statement.
“After turning up to work on the frontline every day through this pandemic, aged care workers shouldn’t be punished for doing their part to keep the community safe. These workers have done nothing wrong. For Eldercare to turn around and show them the door is a disgrace,” Ms Smith said.
Ms Smith said this was also a failure of the SA state government.
“When the second job ban was introduced, we raised concerns about the potential for situations like this to arise, but they chose not to put any safeguards in place to protect these workers,” she said.
Eldercare CEO Jane Pickering told Australian Ageing Agenda the statements made by UWU were false.
“Eldercare has not required any of our employees to resign,” Ms Pickering told AAA.
Ms Pickering said Eldercare has a number of employees who have not been working with the provider for three months because they elected to work for an alternative provider.
“We have recently contacted these employees to ask their intentions regarding returning to work with Eldercare.
“This included inviting employees to request a further period of leave from Eldercare based on personal circumstances,” she said.
The letter asks employees to indicate via an online form whether they will return to work solely with Eldercare, continue to work permanent shifts for another provider and therefore resign due to unavailability to be rostered as per their employment contract, or have exceptional circumstances that are the basis for a request for further unpaid leave.
Ms Pickering said the organisation valued its workforce and its residents.
“Continuity of care is best achieved with a stable, committed workforce, and wherever possible we seek to ensure that our workforce is ready and available to provide care to our residents,” she said.
In response to Eldercare’s comments, Ms Smith reiterated that the provider has forced its employees to resign.
“Eldercare has told workers that they are not able to remain on unpaid leave if they nominated an alternative primary employer,” Ms Smith told AAA.
“Therefore, they have ultimately sacked these workers,” she said.