United Workers Union members from Queensland's largest aged-care provider, Bluecare, and South Australia's Southern Cross Care voted in favour of the industrial action. The two companies join employees at Anglicare in South Australia, Hall & Prior in Western Australia, and Churches of Christ in Queensland.
Together, the five providers will argue for better work conditions and salaries as they fear stressful workloads could leave residents without basic needs and care.
The ballots come as the Fair Work Commission prepares to hear a claim to lift the pay of aged care workers 25% above the award. The hearing into that claim is due to start next week.
It also comes as both parties make major election pledges to better fund aged care. Labor has promised a nurse in every aged care provider 24 hours a day. The Coalition, in response to the aged care royal commission, made significant funding promises to boost the number of home care packages and pay aged care workers an $800 bonus. Both parties have pledged to fund any pay rise awarded by the Fair Work Commission.
“There is a very strong mood for action and there is a very strong mood for action before the election. Aged care workers have been ignored for so long and they know this is their moment to make a point,” said Carolyn Smith, UWU aged care director.
Three other providers, Aegis and Regis in Western Australia and Bolton Clarke in South Australia, will go to the ballot to decide their industrial action plans in the next few weeks. Up to 10,000 workers could be part of the industrial action expected in a few weeks. But they stressed it would provide at least three to five days' notice. UWU said it would work with providers to ensure residents are "not put in danger" by hiring external staff and allocating extra nurses throughout the day.