Australian Government Pledges to Fund Pay Rise For Aged Care Workers

Australian Government Pledges to Fund Pay Rise For Aged Care Workers
People wearing face masks are seen at the entrance of the Menarock Life aged care facility, Essendon, Melbourne, Australia on July 14, 2020, (William West/AFP via Getty Images)

The government will push for a significant and meaningful pay rise for workers in the aged care sector in a pitch to the industrial umpire.

Details of the submission are set to be revealed on Monday as Labor pledges to fund any pay increase determined by the Fair Work Commission.

The commission is considering whether to lift the pay rates for residential and home care workers following the findings of the royal commission into aged care.

Labor minister Tanya Plibersek said her government would find the extra money needed to pay for a wage increase given workers are earning as little as $22 (US$15.50) per hour.

“You’ve got to think about what aged care workers are earning at the moment—they’re earning as little as $22 an hour, so you can literally earn more stacking shelves at a supermarket than caring for some of our most vulnerable Australians,” she told Seven Network.

“We can’t find enough staff to work in aged care. One of the reasons is that ... they can’t afford to keep working in aged care because can’t pay the bills on 22 bucks an hour.”

Aged Care Minister Anika Wells said on Sunday the government would push for a significant rise in wages for aged care workers, but its submission would not have a figure attached to it.

“The kind of work that we want them to do based on the royal commission recommendations for aged care, for a better standard and a better future ... is more complex work, so they should be recognised for that,” Wells told Sky News on Sunday.

“We need to do something to value aged care workers better, and that starts with a pay rise.”

Unions are advocating for at least a 25 per cent pay rise for aged care employees.

Wells acknowledged pressures on the federal budget mean any wage increases must be meaningful but also sustainable.

“We have to improve the standard of care, but we have to do it in a sustainable way ... these reforms have to outlast us all,” she said.

Laws responding to the recommendations of the aged care royal commission were the first to pass parliament under the new Labor government.

Opposition finance spokeswoman Jane Hume said the government’s proposed wage increases needed to be reasonable when asked if she would back a pay rise.

“We know that aged care workers are some of the lowest paid workers in the land, but we also want to make sure that if they do get a pay rise, the system is sustainable,” she told Sky News.

“That the aged cared system can stand up under the weight of that increased cost to their businesses.”