Australia's aged care nurses are the lowest paid nurses in the country, but the work they do is critical to the care, comfort and quality of life of vulnerable, elderly, chronically and terminally ill people living in residential aged care facilities.
Last April aged care nurses, personal
care workers, residents and their families welcomed the Gillard Government
major aged care Living Longer Living
reforms announcement. The plan was a sign the government had listened
to people's concerns and would bypass rhetoric and actually improve residents'
nursing and personal care.
A key part of the package was
$1.2 billion over four years to boost the wages of around 300,000 residential
and community aged care workers, including nurses and personal care staff.
The significant funding was a
welcome start to address the fact that aged care nurses earn $168 less per week
than nurses employed in public hospitals. Boosting low wages would help address
the shortage of more than 20,000 nurses needed to work in aged care and care
for our mothers, fathers, grandmothers, grandfathers and aunts and uncles - our
Previous federal governments have
provided additional money to improve nurses' wages, but it never made it to
their pay packet. This time it was to be different. Federal Minister for Ageing
Mark Butler announced each employer had to sign up to a Workforce Compact - an
agreement setting out checks and balances to ensure the additional funding went
to the intended recipients, the nurses and personal care workers who are the
backbone of the residential and community aged care.
However, seven months since
the Gillard Government announcement, there is no agreement around the Workforce
Compact that will ensure that all of the money makes it to the pockets of those
dedicated aged care workers.
Even worse, uncertainty
around the Workforce Compact has meant enterprise agreements which expired at
the beginning of the year have not been progressed and normal pay rises under
these are now eight or more months overdue.
What's holding the process
up? The employers will not reach agreement with aged care unions, including the
ANF, on how to guarantee the money actually reaches nurses and carers. We must
learn from history and ensure there are robust checks and balances attached to
this funding. In order for employers to access the additional funding the
Workforce Compact must include:
An enterprise agreement. This
will provide transparency and ensure the additional funding is received by the
dedicated nurses and personal care workers for whom it is intended. This was
the Gillard Government's and Minister Butler's promise.
Fair and reasonable employer
funded salary increases. The extra money was intended to be on top of the
annual wage increases employers would have been expected to offer - not instead
Employers should not be
allowed to deduct on costs from Workforce Compact salary increases. This will
ensure nurses and personal care workers receive their fair share of the funding
and it is not whittled away by employers.
Compact money not taken up by
employers should remain in the pool to improve wages and conditions of aged
care workers, and not be returned to
The negotiations have been
overseen by Fair Work Australia Commissioner Gooley who has now filed a report
on the Workforce Compact with Minister Butler. The future of aged care, and its
clinical and personal care workforce, now rests with Minister Butler who is
expected to make a decision on all outstanding matters this month.
The Gillard Government is at
a significant crossroads for the future of aged care policy.
A real wage increase for
nurses and carers will show we value and respect this important work, help reverse
the nurse shortage and help attract and retain qualified and experienced staff
to care for residents.
If the Workforce Compact
fails to direct the extra money to nurses' and carers' wages, then we will
still have a nurse shortage and the level of resident care will not improve.
Nothing will change and it will still cost taxpayers $1.2 billion.
What can you do?
Please sign the ANF (Vic Branch) petition
calling on Minister Butler to urgently finalise a Workforce Compact, which
includes adequate checks, balances and transparency and ties the additional
$1.2 billion to enterprise agreements. This is the only way to ensure the additional
funding goes to the pockets of the people who provide nursing and personal care
to elderly Australians and is not absorbed by employers into consolidated