The Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation (ANMF) has raised concerns that some aged care providers are trying to ‘short-change’ underpaid nurses and personal care workers by not passing on full wage increases ordered by the Fair Work Commission (FWC).
In November last year, the FWC handed down a 15% interim pay increase for aged care workers. On Tuesday, it overruled the Government’s staggered pay rise plan, instead ruling that the full amount needed to be applied by 30 June this year, while also extending the increase to more staff such as chefs and recreational and lifestyle officers.
Following the reform, ANMF Federal Secretary Annie Butler said members working in aged care are reporting that some employers are rushing to lock them into new Enterprise Agreements (EA) – offering wage increases that will not pass on the full amount of additional funding to cover wage increases.
“They’re ‘gaming’ the new Government funding model, trying to short-change underpaid nurses and care workers,” Ms Butler said.
To address the issue, the the ANMF is calling on the Government to ensure transparency and accountability around the new funding, so that the “money gets into the pockets of aged workers, not the wallets of wealthy providers”.
“There need to be rules or triggers imposed by the Government that require aged care providers to pass the additional funding on to higher wages – many employers on the ground are saying that unless they are ‘legally required’ to pass the money on they will simply use their discretion about how they spend it,” Ms Butler said.
“It must be used for the purpose it is provided – higher wages. Otherwise, the aged care staffing crisis will not be addressed and pay rates won’t increase sufficiently to enable the attraction and retention of nursing and care staff.”
Ms Butler said it was crucial that Government consults with the ANMF and members on how the funding will be applied.
“If it’s through the usual mechanisms, it’s apparent that some providers won’t pass on the full wage increases to their workers and will simply pocket the difference,” she said.
“The Government must take a strong position now to fulfil one of its key election promises and make sure that aged care workers get the wage increases that they’re rightly entitled to and have been waiting for.”
Illustrating the union’s concerns, the ANMF (Victorian Branch) has filed bargaining dispute applications in the FWC, including Lifeview (four facilities) and mecwacare (14 facilities and home care). Ms Butler said these providers won’t agree to include a clause in their proposed EAs which provides for three basic principles – transparency about the funding they receive, consultation with the ANMF when they receive it and a commitment to pass on all additional work value money provided by the Commonwealth as higher wages. The providers are not alone in saying they will not commit to passing all work value funding on to employees.