5,000 aged care employees: It’s time!

An LHMU petition to increase the wages of residential aged care workers has received the support of 5,000 employees throughout the country.

Aged care workers across the country have spoken- 5,000 of them in fact. A recent Liquor, Hospitality and Miscellaneous Union (LHMU) petition to increase the wages of residential age care employees around the country has received widespread support from the sector, clocking the 5,000 mark yesterday.

The petition will be used as evidence by the LHMU in its case, currently before Fair Work Australia, to increase the wage of all residential aged care workers.

The wages application, made by the national union, is a landmark case which uses the new low paid bargaining powers of the Fair Work Act to bring employees, employers and possibly even the federal government, to the bargaining table.

The LHMU’s aged care members are the first low-paid employee group to have ever have sought a wage increase through the act.

National secretary of the LHMU, Louise Tarrant, said that the case highlighted the dire need for a petition which would give aged care workers throughout the country a “stronger voice”.

“Very often, our members in aged care feel quite powerless,” Ms Tarrant said.

“They look around and think about how much better they could do their job if only they could spend more time with their residents, if their colleagues stayed on…[and] if they could stay in sector long-term.

“This petition is giving them a voice and giving them an opportunity to say this is an industry we love but it is in dire straits.”

Ms Tarrant said that although the union’s witness statements provide heartfelt stories about how difficult it is to live on a low wage, this evidence was only “the tip of the iceberg”.

“There’s a giant hunger out there for reform in this sector…[Aged care employees] themselves are incredibly committed to the residents but they know that the wages they get directly impact quality of service.

“They’re feeling very squeezed. Emotionally, it’s very hard so it can’t be a financially difficult industry too. There’s a real sense amoung workers in this sector, that this is the time to fix some very deep-seated problems.

“But the other part of this petition is that we are sending a very strong message to Fair Work Australia, employers and the government, that there is a real problem here.”

The union’s main aim is to achieve a pay increase for all residential aged care workers worth $8 to $10 per hour, to make wages on par with equivalent positions in male dominated industries.

Under the powers of the act, the application allows the LHMU to bring multiple employers to the bargaining table, not just single employers, as well as important third parties like the federal government (read more).

“You can not build aged care facilities of the future on the backs of underworked, underpaid and exploited workers. We are trying to give a sense of the magnitude and urgency of the problem.

“We are trying to give recognition to the fact that age care is an area that needs a lot of public policy reform. But fundamental to that is that if you don’t have a stable quality workforce, nothing else matters.”

The formal hearing before a full Fair Work Australia bench will begin on Monday 22 November. The first issue to be argued by each side is whether or not the definition of a “low paid worker” includes employees on enterprize bargains, as well as those being paid an award wage. A decision on this technical issue is expected to be handed down early next year.  

Tags: aged-care, aged-care-wages, fair-work-act, fair-work-australia, lhmu,

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