Federal government funding through the Aged Care Compact is a vital first step to improving the wages and careers of aged care nurses.
After a long period of consultation between the federal government, employers and unions, the Aged Care Compact has been concluded and $1.2 billion will begin to flow into workers’ wages.
By 2016, when the compact finalises, aged care workers and nursing staff should have received a boost to wages of about $46 a week or $2390 a year for a Registered Nurse, $35 per week or $1820 a year for an Enrolled Nurse and $29 a week or $1510 for an Assistant in Nursing.
Wage increases will begin from 1 July this year, however the funding will only be given to those aged care providers that sign up to enterprise bargaining agreements.
NSWNMA General Secretary Brett Holmes says the Gillard Government should be commended for putting in place a process that ensures the increased funding goes towards improving wages in the sector.
“In the past employers have not passed on increased government funding to the sector into increased wages as they should have done.
“This is the first time the funding will be linked to wage increases delivered through enterprise bargaining. It guarantees that the increased government funding will go straight into aged care workers’ pockets.”
Brett Holmes says the Aged Care Compact is the culmination of years of hard campaigning by aged care nurses.
“The NSWNMA and the ANF initiated the Because We Care campaign four years ago and one of our key goals was to increase wages in the sector, so we could attract and keep the workers that provide quality care for every resident.
“All aged care nurses who participated in the campaign, and everyone who supported them, should feel proud of this outcome.
“The compact is not a silver bullet for the sector’s problems. It will not solve the nurse shortage in aged care – the wage gap between aged care and public and private hospitals is too great. But it is a vital first step to address the problem of low wages.”
Brett Holmes says while the government has made the money available to improve wages it can not be taken for granted that employers will fully cooperate.
“Some employers, either for ideological or other reasons, will refuse to engage with the Workforce Compact and pass up the opportunity to improve their employees wages.
“Employer groups have not signed up to the compact and only one was represented at its launch by Aged Care Minister Mark Butler.
“Past experience tells us that if it was left to them the money would not be passed on to workers. But this time there is a transparent, legally enforceable mechanism in place that obliges employers to pass all of the money from the compact to workers.
“The key to keeping employers honest will be strong member organisation and an enterprise agreement at each workplace.”
Brett says there are still other opportunities to improve care and nurses’ pay and conditions in aged care.
“The Gillard Government has set up the Aged Care Financing Authority to investigate the true cost of aged care, including what reasonable wage levels should be. We await its findings with interest.”
The Federal Minister for Ageing, Mark Butler, said the Aged Care Compact was an important milestone.
“This addresses something that was identified by the Productivity Commission, by the aged care sector and by consumer groups, as perhaps the most important challenge in having a good quality, sustainable aged care system for the future,” he said. “There are currently around 350,000 workers in the aged care sector. Over the following decades we’ll need to increase that workforce to nearly one million. One in 20 workers in Australia will be an aged care worker.
“Our recent workforce census showed that more than 60% of residential care facilities say they have difficulty in getting the Registered Nurses that they need.
“The Productivity Commission told us that we should make sure aged care funding is directed in a way that would underpin fair and competitive wages for aged care staff. They said that wages were the major hurdle to attracting and keeping the aged care workforce that we need.”
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