Because We Care: Victory for workers

Aged care workers will be the big winners out of the federal government’s planned massive injection of funds into the sector from 2013.

The Because We Care campaign, conducted by the NSWNA and the Australian Nursing Federation (ANF) for the past three years, has had a stunning victory with the announcement by the Gillard Government of a $3.7 billion aged care reform package.

Importantly for aged care nurses, a key component of the package is $1.2 billion to address the wages gap and training.

There is a shift in emphasis of aged care from residential to community care and an extra $270 million for improving services to dementia patients.

Minister for Ageing Mark Butler told ABC Radio that the demand for aged care services was only going to increase.

“This is the beginning of building an aged care system for the 21st century, rather than trying to work with a system that was built in the 1980s,” he said.

$1.2 billion for wages and workforce development

From 1 July 2013, $1.2 billion will be provided over four years to implement a “Workforce Compact”. Key elements of the Compact will be:

  • higher wages
  • improved training and education opportunities
  • improved career development and workforce planning
  • better work practices

These improvements will be provided directly to workers through enterprise bargaining. The NSWNA and the ANF will be involved in negotiating these enterprise agreements and ensuring that nurses and assistants in nursing achieve significant wage increases that are fair and competitive with the public sector.

Lee Thomas
Lee Thomas

Lee Thomas from the ANF says this is an enormous victory for aged care nurses and consumers.

“It’s not uncommon for workers in the sector to earn between $168 and $300 a week less than workers working in public hospitals, for example, registered and enrolled nurses,” she said.

“This extra funding, delivered through the establishment of the Workforce Compact, will assist in closing the wages gap for aged care nurses and provide nurses with improved career structures and training opportunities.

“We are confident this will go a long way toward more nurses being attracted and retained in the sector and ensuring they can deliver quality care to older Australians in nursing homes.”


What the stakeholders say

Ian Yates, Council on the Ageing
“To have this kind of commitment in the current fiscal environment is really remarkable and we congratulate the government.”

Martin Laverty, Catholic Health Australia
“We’ve said to the government, you’ve made a solid first step in improving the opportunity for quality services to be delivered.”

Glen Rees, Alzheimer’s Australia
“I think this is the response we were looking for. It’s positive in every way. It provides reassurance that the quality of dementia care is of concern to government; the package addresses that. I’m not sure we could ask for anything more at this stage.”

Lee Thomas, Australian Nursing Federation
“This money will go a significant way to redressing that massive wages gap. When we can actually start to attract more nurses into the sector, my very clear wish is that we then move on to things like mandated minimum staffing levels and skills mix.”


Key elements of the package

  • Home care assistance packages doubled from $59,876 to almost $100,000.
  • Home and residential care fees capped at $60,000 for a person’s lifetime.
  • $660 million to provide more residential aged care facilities.
  • $268 million to fight the nation’s dementia epidemic.
  • $1.2 billion to improve working conditions for staff.