Coalition: major cuts to aged care funding, no guaranteed wages

The Coalition’s Aged Care Policy shows major cuts to funding and no guaranteed wages for aged care nurses.

In the first election debate on 11 August 2013, Opposition Leader Tony Abbott said: “I accept that it (the Government’s Living Longer, Living Better aged care reforms) was quite a detailed set of changes … We have no plans to make significant changes to the system the government’s put in place.”

However, his tune has changed.

On August 31, the Australian Financial Review reported on a leaked Coalition policy document that showed significant changes to the Aged Care Act should a Coalition government be elected.

The document is heavily in favour of employer groups, ultimately making it easier for them to get around both state and federal regulations and funding dramatically reduced for improvements to the aged care sector.

According to the document, residents would also be worse off, with both means-testing and user pays being considered. Employers could also bring in less trained staff and since there will be a four year gap between funding and regulations being renegotiated, residents and nurses would not be able to easily reverse bad employer decisions.

At an election debate on 28 August, Coalition leader Tony Abbott said the delivery of improved wages for aged care workers should not be achieved through enterprise bargaining and should be put into a “general pool” of aged care funding instead.

The leaked document confirms that the workforce compact will be “under review” should the Coalition get elected, and workers worse off.
An enterprise bargaining agreement is the only way to legally guarantee that employers pass the funding onto aged care nurses in much needed increased wages.

The current aged care supplement for increased funding potentially lifts wages of all aged care workers who are protected by an enterprise bargaining agreement. This was after a hard-fought campaign by the ANMF and your union, the NSWNMA.

Already in NSW, nurses employed by Domain Principal and Uniting Care have voted ‘yes’ to their increased wages, protected in an Enterprise Agreement.

Since 2002, there have been many funding initiatives for aged care, but since they weren’t tied to bargaining, consequently hardly any nurses saw the benefits. This process guarantees that your employers are contractually obligated to pay you wage increases rather than pocketing the money.

What you can do

This election, vote for your right to guaranteed wage increases. If the Coalition and Tony Abbott get elected, they will place the $1.2 billion into the general aged care funding pool. This will be the same as directly taking the money away from nurses and other care staff.

The New South Wales Nurses and Midwives’ Association stands by the funding being tied to enterprise bargaining. It’s the only way to legally guarantee that nurses and aged-care workers receive much needed wage increases.

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