Tuesday 27th August 2013
Many aged care providers can’t afford higher wages, according to the Coalition.The Liberal-led Coalition has refused to guarantee that it will maintain $1.2 billion in extra funding to boost wages of nurses and other aged care employees if it wins government.
The Coalition has implied it could scrap the Aged Care Workforce Supplement because, it says, many aged care providers cannot afford it.
The Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation asked the main political parties: “Will you commit to continuing the Aged Care Workforce Supplement?”
The Liberal Party’s federal campaign director, Brian Loughnane, replied: “With less than half of all aged care providers operating in the black, the Coalition is concerned that many providers will not be able to afford the regulatory burden imposed by the Workforce Compact and the associated ongoing costs.
“These pressures may further erode the viability of many aged care centres, especially those smaller providers in regional and rural areas.”
Both Labor and the Greens have promised to maintain the compact. ALP national secretary George Wright said it would lead to higher wages and better conditions for aged care staff, and help the industry to attract and retain a skilled workforce.
The Coalition’s refusal to guarantee to keep the wages supplement would take money away from almost 200,000 residential aged care workers and 100,000 home and community care workers.
Under Labor’s aged care reforms, which recently became law, aged care workers should get government-funded wage rises totalling 3.5%, between 1 July 2013 and 1 July 2016.
That is on top of minimum annual increases of 2.75% paid by employers.
Wage increases can begin from 1 July this year, providing employers negotiate enterprise bargaining agreements.
NSWNMA General Secretary Brett Holmes said the Workforce Supplement was the result of four years of strong union campaigning and Labor had listened to the campaign message.
“The Labor government saw the need to develop a comprehensive workforce strategy to deliver fairer wages, improved access to education and training and access to more rewarding career paths,” he said.
Brett said Labor had upset the Coalition by insisting that employers would only get the government-funded wage supplements if they signed enterprise agreements with their employees.
“Labor did this to make sure providers could not divert additional government funding intended for wage increases, as has happened in previous years.”
Providers sign up despite Coalition hysteria
The NSWNMA is negotiating agreements for aged care providers to pay the government-funded Workforce Supplement – despite the Coalition’s claim that providers cannot afford it.
Agreements were finalised, or in advanced stages of negotiation, with several providers including Domain Principal Group (DPG) and Uniting Care, as this election issue of The Lamp went to press.
DPG has 55 residential aged care homes nationwide including 28 in New South Wales.
DPG managing director Gary Barnier wrote: “We believe the reform package will deliver good care outcomes and choice of accommodation to consumers, while ensuring the viability of providers.”
Earlier this year, Liberal/National Party Senators opposed the Aged Care Workforce Supplement during a Senate committee inquiry into Labor’s aged care reforms.
Opposition Shadow Minister for Ageing, Senator Concetta Fierravanti-Wells, described it as “nothing more than a union driven industrial process” and “a backdoor way to get more aged care workers to join the union”.
Introduced a package of reforms including extra pay increases under the Aged Care Workforce Supplement. It provides funding to “assist the sector in delivering fair and competitive wages in the short term” while the Aged Care Financing Authority considers longer-term options.
Refuses to commit to keeping the Aged Care Workforce Supplement because “many providers” cannot afford it. Claims higher wages for aged care staff “may further erode the viability of many aged care centres, especially those smaller providers in regional and rural areas.”
The Greens remain committed to the aged care reforms including the Workforce Supplement and say their amendments strengthened Labor’s original legislation.