FWC rules full 15 per cent pay rise this year

While applauding the decision to pay aged care workers the 15 per cent wage increase in one go, there are calls for the government to fully fund the award.

While applauding the Fair Work Commission’s decision to pay eligible aged care workers the 15 per cent pay increase in full effective from 30 June, peaks and unions have called on the government to fully fund the award.

Following an interim decision from the FWC in November for a 15 per cent pay rise for direct care workers, in December the government proposed and committed to phasing in the increase over two stages: 10 per cent this July; the remaining 5 per cent 12 months later.

Tuesday’s announcement by the FWC – which extends to nurses, personal care workers, recreational officers and a home’s most senior chef or cook in residential aged care and all home care workers was welcomed by Catholic Health Australia.

Jason Kara

Speaking to Australian Ageing Agenda, CHA’s aged care director Jason Kara said the peak body representing Catholic aged care providers was “extremely encouraged” by the FWC’s draft determination.

“We think that the pay rates for aged care workers compared to their peers in healthcare and compared to workers in retail is too low. The Fair Work Commission’s draft determination to pay that 15 per cent in one hit is extremely welcome in a time of high inflation and it will help make aged care workers more competitive.”

The catch now, added Mr Kara, is whether the government will commit to fully funding the wage increase. “Will they fully fund the 15 per cent from 30 June as the Fair Work Commission directed, and as they’ve committed. Or will they stick to phasing it – 10 per cent this year and 5 per cent the year after. At this stage, the aged care sector is not able to absorb that 5 per cent increase themselves – we need government support to do this and we’re waiting with bated breath now about what the government’s response will be.”

Provider peak the Aged & Community Care Providers Association also called on the government to fully fund the 15 per cent award. In a statement, ACCPA chief executive officer Tom Symondson said, now that the industrial umpire had decided to implement the wage hike in one go, it is critical that the federal government revisits its position on funding the pay rise.

“With seven out of 10 aged care providers already losing an average of $21 per resident per day, this decision of the commission changes everything.”

Tom Symondson

He added: “We have publicly supported the need for significant pay rises for our workforce, and fully supported the government’s election commitment to fully fund them. However, this must not be at the cost of our sector’s ability to deliver care to older Australians.”

ACCPA, said Mr Symondson, “would continue to engage with government to find a workable solution.”

On Twitter, the Health Services Union said the FWC’s announcement was “a fantastic outcome for aged are workers across Australia.”

Meanwhile, Annie Butler, federal secretary of the country’s largest union – the Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation – said the FWC’s decision was “a great win for aged care workers and a further step towards genuine recognition of their true value.”

Annie Butler

Awarding workers the full 15 per cent, said Ms Butler in a statement, “not only recognises the severe undervaluation of aged care workers under the current system, but also acknowledges the rising cost of living pressures these workers continue to face, whilst receiving chronically low wages.”

Ms Butler also commended the FWC for extending the pay rise beyond direct care workers to include head chefs and cooks, and recreational officers.

However, Ms Butler noted there is still more work to do, with the ANMF also calling on the federal government to fund the full 15 per cent.

The Aged Care Workforce Industry Council echoed the call. Deputy chair Graeme Prior said: “I encourage the government to move quickly to support the funding of the wage rise in full, from 30 June.”

And, while welcoming the decision, Mr Prior pointed to the aged care workers who would be missing out on a wage increase including support and administration staff, and other food services workers.

“These workers are central to the provision of safe, person-centred care and their work should be properly valued.”

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Tags: ACCPA, acwic, anmf, Annie Butler, featured, FWC, graeme prior, hsu, Tom Symondson,

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