Unions, along with other stakeholders, have made submissions to the Fair Work Commission calling for its interim offer of a 15 per cent pay rise to be paid in full without delay.
In the November decision on the aged care work value case, the FWC announced it was offering nurses and personal care workers a 15 per cent pay rise to be paid in two stages: 10 per cent from 1 July, and the other 5 per cent 12 months later. The proposal received federal government support.
However, the offer was criticised by stakeholders for being phased in over 18 months rather than being paid immediately in full, and only applying to direct care workers.
In its latest FWC submission dated 20 January, the Australian Workers Union echoed those criticisms, saying it did not support “the timing or the phasing in” of the pay rise while calling for the 15 per cent to be paid in full “on or after a specific date”.
The AWU noted “there was no cogent evidence put by the Commonwealth as to why phasing in the interim increase in the manner they propose is manageable, whereas awarding this increase in full without any phasing in would not be manageable.”
The Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation also called for the increase to “come into effect immediately” so that direct care workers receive the benefits “without further delay”.
Nurses and personal care workers should not have to wait until 1 July 2024 – nearly 20 months after the interim decision – “to receive a minimum rate increase that is plainly justified by work value reasons,” reads the ANMF submission.
The ANMF also called on the FWC to support the removal of gender-based wage discrimination by establishing and maintaining a safety net of “fair minimum wages” that ensure “equal renumeration for work of equal or comparable value” and eliminate “gender-based undervaluation of work” and address “gender pay gaps”.
In its submission, the Health Services Union joined the calls for the 15 per cent pay rise to be paid immediately. “Any delay in the implementation of the interim decision will result in direct care workers in the aged care sector continuing to receive wages which are very significantly below the true value of the work they perform,” reads the HSU submission.
Meanwhile, in a joint submission on behalf of sector peak Aged & Community Care Providers Association and employer advocacy organisation Australian Business Industrial, a call was made to expand the direct care pay increase to include head chefs and cooks, and recreational activities officers “on the basis that the increase is to be funded by the Commonwealth.”
These roles make up a very small cohort of the aged care workforce, reads the submission, “and in regard to the RAOs are firmly aligned to direct care employees in how they work directly with consumers.”
ACCPA and the ABI also seek “further clarity” regarding increased hourly rates of overtime, increased superannuation, increased pay roll tax and increased workers’ compensation contributions. “This issue looms large in the operation of the interim increases,” reads the submission.
Concerns of home care operators were also submitted. “Given the increase in pricing that will likely be necessary to cover the increase in costs to operators, clients may be more hesitant to agree to a change in the pricing in their agreement. This could mean that even with additional funding being paid into home care packages by the government, some home care operators could be required to pay the interim increases without the ability to recover costs from the increased package funding. This is a significant risk to operators considering the level of increase in wages that is going to occur.”
The ACCPA/ABI submission concludes: “The approach to funding for home care will require home care package recipients to consent to new pricing before the funding can flow to employers to fund the interim increases.”
“Without an adequate workforce, we cannot meet the needs of our ageing population.”
In a statement, the Aged Care Workforce Industry Council backed the calls to extend the pay deal to apply to non-direct care workers.
ACWIC chair Libby Lyons said fair pay for aged care workers is fundamental to attracting and retaining workers to provide quality of care for older Australians.
“This is about the provision of person-centred care that meets the expectations of our community. It is not possible to provide the kind of care we want and in fact need for our parents, our partner, or ourselves, if we do not recognise, in financial terms, the value of the work that is delivered by the broad suite of these essential workers,” said Ms Lyons.
“Without an adequate workforce in all the roles that support the physical, social and emotional wellbeing of older people, we simply cannot meet the needs of our ageing population.” This includes kitchen, laundry, recreation activities and administrative staff, added Ms Lyons.
ACWIC also “wholeheartedly” supports the elimination of gender-based wage discrimination. “Improving wages in sectors that have historically undervalued women’s work will help to narrow the gender pay gap. This is especially important in aged care, where nine out of 10 employees are women,” said Ms Lyons.
“We will continue to work with government to address the critical shortage of aged care workers, and to equip the aged care workforce to deliver the care that older people, their families and carers expect.”