ACCPA backs delayed pay rise

In submissions to FWC, unions reiterate calls for wage increases to start mid-year, but the provider peak has added its support to the government’s phased-in approach from 2025.

While calling it “disappointing and concerning” the aged care provider peak body has backed the government’s proposal to phase in the next stage of wage increases from next year for viability and administrative reasons in a submission to the Fair Work Commission.

Aged & Community Care Providers Association chief executive officer Tom Symondson told Australian Ageing Agenda: “It would be irresponsible for us to take a position to the Fair Work Commission which supports a start date for the increases that is not linked to the commencement of additional funding.”

The three unions involved in the case – Health Services Union, United Workers Union and Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation – have rejected the government’s proposal and are united in their calls for the pay rise to come into effect in full for all aged care workers on 30 June 2024.

And HSU has emphasised in its submission that any pay increase arising from the Annual Wage Review should be applied in addition to the latest FWC increases.

In March, the FWC commission awarded non-direct residential aged care workers a pay rise of between 3 and 7 per cent while their direct care counterparts won up to 28 per cent inclusive of the 15 per cent interim increase added since last July.

The government has committed to funding the case’s Stage 3 increases and in a move that was universally slammed by all stakeholders at the time wants to do that for indirect care workers from 1 January 2025 and for direct care workers in two parts with half from 1 January 2025 and the remaining a year later.  

Minister for Aged Care Anika Wells reiterated that commitment during a post-budget briefing webinar this week in response to viewer questions. And while highlighting the government’s proposed timeline, said it was for the FWC to determine it.

Minister for Aged Care Anika Wells answer questions during a post-budget webinar

“We have… committed to fund the outcome of the wage case, [and] we have provision for that in the budget. We have made submissions to Fair Work about the timing of how we do that. The workforce and providers, the other stakeholders in this case have done the same. We are all waiting on Fair Work now to determine what that timeframe looks like,” Ms Wells told stakeholders.

ACCPA’s submission to the FWC calls the government’s timing and phasing-in of the next wage increases disappointing and concerning to aged care employers and employees but said given the Commonwealth was the principal funder in the aged care sector, ACCPA was “commercially compelled to support that approach to ensure the ongoing viability of the sector”.

But it also adds four factors in support of aligning the operative date with the Commonwealth’s timetable. They are:

Tom Symondson
  • the broad scope of the increases
  • the impact of no additional Commonwealth funding for the sector
  • the insufficient time for home care operators to procure new home care agreements by 1 July 2024
  • the insufficient time for residential aged care providers to grapple with the complexity of the Stage 3 increases.

In a response to a question asking why the peak was supporting the government’s proposed timeline instead of advocating for it to fund the pay rise sooner, Mr Symondson said ACCPA had worked tirelessly to secure wage rises for workers.

“Quite simply, providers can only afford these types of increases with matching government funding. Without it the sector will fall over,” he said.

Unions reject any delay

HSU, however, said the Commonwealth’s proposal should be rejected because no basis has been demonstrated as to why the pay rise should be delay beyond 1 July 2024 and a delay would mean aged care workers were left underpaid.

“Consistent with the approach adopted to the interim increases, it is appropriate that the Stage 3 increases come into effect one day earlier on 30 June 2024 to avoid any confusion in relation to increases from the Annual Wage Review, which are likely to take effect on 1 July 2024 and to make clear, for the avoidance of doubt, that any pay increase arising from the Annual Wage Review should be applied in addition to the Stage 3 increases.”

Any delay in the commencement and phasing in of the increase “would result in all aged care workers continuing to receive rates significantly below the true value of the work they perform and will have the effect of perpetuating the historic and gender-based undervaluation of work of aged care sector,” the submission says.

While pushing for a full increase as soon as possible and no later than 30 June 2024 for all worker, the UWU in its submission has stressed the importance of indirect care workers coming first if the FWC does adopt an alternative timeline.

“If the FWC decides in favour of some further timeframe for implementation, the increase in relation to indirect care employees should nonetheless be implemented in full as soon as possible and at the latest 30 June 2024,” its submission reads.

The ANMF, which is waiting on the outcome of another work value case that will affect aged care nurses, has called for the increase to apply as soon as determined in its submission.

“In the event that no determination regarding wage increases for aged care employees under the Nurses Award has been made by 30 June 2024, such increases would operate immediately upon a determination being made,” it called for.

Delays add to provider’s workforce challenges

HSU also said the proposed delay would “damage the financial interests” of workers and likely “accentuate difficulties in the attraction and retention of staff in aged care and the proper recognition of the value of that work.”

On whether ACCPA was concerned a delay would add to workforce recruitment and retention challenges, Mr Symondson acknowledged the previous increases were working but said the timeline was for the FWC to decide.

“We’re hearing reports from across the sector that it’s becoming easier to attract and keep aged care workers, so this is another important step in that journey,” he said. “At the end of the day, this is a decision for the Fair Work Commission and they will decide on timelines.”

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Tags: ACCPA, anika wells, anmf, hsu, pay rise, Tom Symondon, uwu, work value case,

1 thought on “ACCPA backs delayed pay rise

  1. Can’t believe that we are still awaiting for an answer from the FWC following their meeting in May to determine when the correction will be implemented.
    I strongly doubt if the government decided they were underpaid that they would accept “catch up” payments over a 2 year period.

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