In a second day of industrial action, aged care workers in South Australia and Queensland are walking off the job this week in support of improved pay and increased staffing.

Friday’s strike follows an earlier protest on 10 May when workers from five major facilities in Queensland and Western Australia walked off the job.

Carolyn Smith

“Given the failures of the Federal Government, aged care workers are again walking off the job after last week’s unprecedented strike action across the country,” said United Workers Union aged care director Carolyn Smith. “They are telling their employers it’s time for them to take responsibility.”

The strike comes as government statistics show that COVID is killing more than 60 aged care residents a week. All up, official figures show there have been 1,148 COVID deaths in residential aged care homes so far this year.

“The Omicron crisis continues to play havoc with active outbreaks in more than 750 aged care facilities – distressing locked-up aged care residents, devastating families and causing unbearable workloads for aged care workers,” said Ms Smith.

There exists a public perception that the country is post-COVID, said Ms Smith, “but for aged care workers working double shifts in full PPE there has been no let up and the aged care crisis is in full swing.”

She added: “How can we lose more than 350 senior Australians to COVID since the election campaign was launched and no-one is talking about this?”

Prime Minister Scott Morrison and aged care services Minister Richard Colbeck need to be held to account, said Ms Smith. They have “failed in their responsibilities in aged care repeatedly, and those failures continue.”

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3 Comments

  1. Striking, withdrawing your labour, is always a huge step to take for people who care for other people. I mean, no one works in aged care as a career path. There is no future on the industry. We do it for a variety of reasons of course, but I did it for the rather simplistic reason to ‘give something back to people who have so little’. For me it was an act of ‘service to others who have a worse life than I do’. An exercise in what I called ‘active compassion’. It all sounds like cliches I know, and writing it feels like I am reaching for cliches. But I can’t think of a better way of putting it.

    Sadly though, neither the government nor wider society have any real interest in aged care. At a conference a few years ago I gave a paper on challenging behaviours in residential care and the topic of ‘who is to blame for the perilous state of residential care in Australia’. My response to the questioner was to retort ‘why, you are to blame sir’. My follow up point was that no-one votes in elections based on the state of aged care. We vote based on our own self interest – it’s the economy stupid, is the conventional wisdom. Both the government and society are happy for low staff ratios, happy that carers are paid shite money, that RNs have largely left the system, that neglect is the order of the day.

    If it has come to strike action, although I recoil at such steps, still I think it is necessary. I fully support it.

  2. COVID may be the cause of extra deaths in Residential Aged Care but how many people died because of abuse or negligence. (Before and During COVID). Understaffing, poorly trained staff, cover-ups of incidents/mistakes, Poor systems supported by greedy providers need to made them legally responsible.

  3. The word a abuse gets thrown around whenever there is an age care report. Nobody talks about the age care workers who sit with dying clients when family’s aren’t available. Nobody talks about the abuse staff are subject to from clients who are promised a level of care from age care providers that is impossible to supply because of staffing ratios. Nobody talks about the physical abuse that staff are subject to from dementia patients, only to be told by management that it’s part of the job. All for minimal wage.

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