Last week, the Fair Work Commission began hearings into whether Australia’s aged care workforce should receive a 25% pay rise to bring their pay into parity with disability and hospital workers. Meanwhile, aged care workers across the country have voted to take industrial action over acute staff shortages and continuing low pay rates. The United Workers Union says the mood for strike action before the election is “very strong”.
Sky News Australia reported that an estimated 10,000 employees in the sector who work across five major providers in Western Australia and Queensland would strike on Tuesday. They include Regi, Aegis, Hall & Prior, Churches of Christ and Bluecare.
“Workforce shortages are exhausting our staff, and many hard-working people in the sector are barely able to keep up with the cost of living, with inflation rising to a point that’s more than twice the rate of wages growth,” Charles Moore, BaptistCare NSW and ACT Chief Executive told the Guardian.
“Our sector is underfunded and falling into an untenable standstill. It’s impacting both our workers and the most vulnerable in our society, and voters are seeing this too,” he added.
BaptistCare on Monday released polling it commissioned on voters’ attitudes to aged care funding and staff pay, conducted by YouGov. It found Australians ranked aged care workers behind only hospital workers regarding who should be paid the highest. The overwhelming majority of voters said there were important actions the incoming government should take concerning the aged care sector, with increasing funding the most important, according to the poll.
Almost half of those polled said they had become less confident in the aged care sector in the past 12 months, and 83% said policies on aged care would be important in shaping their vote. There was also some confusion among voters about who is responsible for funding aged care. Only one in three believed the aged care system was majority funded by the government, and 52% said they were unsure of the level of government funding given to the sector.
"The solutions are very difficult," Prime Minister Scott Morrison said in the second face-to-face leaders' debate over the weekend when discussing the aged care sector."To get to 16 hours out of 24 hours later this year. We are investing $300 million to ensure we are building up to the nursing workforce."
Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese argued the Coalition only called for a royal commission into aged care after pressure from the Labor Party. He initially pledged to have a registered nurse in every aged care facility 24 hours a day, seven days a week, if elected. But Labor Party has since admitted this policy may be put on "pause" due to staff shortages.