Umpire delivers 15pct aged care wage rise

November 04, 2022 05:52 PM AEDT | By AAPNEWS
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The industrial umpire has awarded an interim 15 per cent pay rise to aged care workers.

The Fair Work Commission said on Friday the interim increase in minimum wages of the direct care classifications in the Aged Care and SCHADS Awards, and for nurses working in aged care covered by the Nurses Award, is "plainly justified by work value reasons".

The commission full bench said the interim rise "does not conclude its consideration of the unions' claim for a 25 per cent increase for other employees, namely administrative and support aged care employees".

"Nor was the full bench suggesting that the 15 per cent interim increase necessarily exhausts the extent of the increase justified by work value reasons in respect of direct care aged care employees," it said.

"Whether any further increase is justified will be the subject of submissions in stage three of these proceedings."

The government, in a joint release from ministers Mark Butler, Anika Wells and Tony Burke, put the result down to advocacy from unions, the aged care sector, and the Albanese government. 

They said if aged care workers didn't start getting paid properly, the sector wouldn't be sufficiently staffed to ensure care for Australians' loved ones as the population aged. 

Health and Aged Care Minister Mr Butler said the government delivered on its commitment to making a submission on the case, and it would fund the outcome. 

"Better wages will lead to better staffing and better care," he said.

Aged Care Minister Ms Wells said workers needed to be brought back to the sector to fill the staff shortages caused by nine years of neglect.

One of the main causes of the gender pay gap was low pay and poor conditions in female-dominated sectors like aged care, she said.

"Increasing wages in aged care is essential to ensuring that men and women are paid equally," Ms Wells said. 

Workplace Relations Minister Mr Burke said while aged care was hard work, it was also undervalued work.

The pay rise was the first step in changing that, he said.

"We fought for this pay rise because our government is committed to getting wages moving again - particularly in low-paid female-dominated industries like this one," Mr Burke said. 

The Health Services Union welcomed the interim pay rise, but said a larger and broader increase is needed to stem the industry's crisis.

"This is a reasonable start but we need the commission to go further and permanently end the poverty wage settings that dominate aged care," HSU national president Gerard Hayes said.

"Fifteen per cent is a down-payment. But nobody should be mistaken - this will not fix the crisis. We still have massive unfinished business in aged care."

The royal commission into aged care prompted proceedings that led to the wage increase, with the inquiry concluding the aged care workforce faced systemic issues. 

In its final report, the royal commission recommended an increase in award wages to reflect workers' true value, noting the bulk of the workforce did not receive adequate pay. 

On Friday, the industrial umpire said its full bench accepted the proposition that work was undervalued when assessed with gender-biased assumptions.

It also accepted that industrial tribunals' approach to assessing work value and historical wage fixing principles have been barriers to properly assessing value in female-dominated industries. 


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