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Issue #1613      October 2, 2013

Aged care wilderness

The Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation (ANMF) has expressed outrage the new Coalition government has withdrawn agreed wage improvements for low-paid aged care workers.

Federal secretary, Lee Thomas, said the ANMF was appalled the government announced it was suspending applications for the Workforce Supplement “without any consultation with the ANMF and its members working across the aged care sector.”

“This is a dark day for Australia’s aged care nurses and care workers and the older Australians they care for,” Ms Thomas said. “After fighting so long for wage parity, aged care nurses and carers have been cruelly abandoned by the new government. It’s plainly obvious the government has chosen to place the profits of providers over the interests of thousands of frontline nurses and care workers across the country.”

Ms Thomas said the $1.2 billion allocated for wages and training, as part of the Workforce Compact, was the first time government funding has directly flowed into the pockets of under-paid nurses and care workers.

“Since 2002 there has been a range of government funding initiatives directed at enhancing the capacity of aged care employers to offer competitive wages, including $211 million over four years in the 2002-03 Budget and a further $877.8 million over years from 2004,” Ms Thomas said.

“But none of these additional amounts were tied to bargaining and consequently hardly any nurses or assistants in nursing saw any benefit. If the money didn’t reach them then, it’s certainly not going to reach them now. That’s why enterprising bargaining through the Workforce Compact was crucial in ensuring that additional funding for the sector actually reaches nurses and other aged care workers.

The ANMF has approximately 90 percent of the aged care sector already covered by enterprise agreements and these agreements award all nurses and in many cases assistants in nursing wages and conditions that are above the award. “Aged care workers can’t be kept in limbo. The government must now come clean and spell out its plans for the sector to nurses, care workers, nursing home residents and their families. If we cannot recruit and retain nursing and care staff, it is older Australians primarily living in nursing homes who will ultimately suffer through poorer care outcomes.”

Next article – Welfare payment increases show fault lines developing

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