ANMF calls on government to swiftly implement aged care pay rises

The ANMF has called on the government to implement final pay increases for aged care workers immediately.

The FWC handed down its Stage 3 decision in March, determining that direct care workers, including Assistants in Nursing (AINs)/Personal Care Workers (PCWs), working under the Aged Care Award 2010, should get further pay rises of between 2 to 13.5%, on top of an initial 15% boost awarded last year, as part of the ANMF’s landmark Aged Care Work Value Case.

The decision to increase beyond the 15% initial increase was made on the basis of “work value reasons”, including the “invisible” skills involved in aged care and the reality that such skills have never been properly valued.

The latest decision did not include additional pay increases for enrolled nurses (ENs) and registered nurses (RNs), due to the Commission currently considering a separate application by the ANMF for all employees covered by the Nurses Award 2020.

Despite the FWC’s ruling, the government, in a submission lodged last month, asked to phase in the pay rises for direct care workers over the next two years, citing concerns over workforce shortages across several sectors, and wanting to improve its budget position. Under their proposal, direct care workers would receive half the increase from January 2025, and the remainder from January 2026. Indirect care workers, including cleaners and admin, however, would receive the full increase from the start of next year.

In its submission responding to the government’s proposed operative date, the ANMF said aged care workers have been subsidising the profit margins of their employers, the Commonwealth budget, and the taxpayer, for some time. As such, the situation should not be permitted to continue.

“It is time to finish what was started and grant classifications of direct care workers under the Aged Care Award the final increase without further delay,” the ANMF states.

“The operative date of 30 June 2024 is fair and reasonable in the circumstances.”

In arguing its position, the ANMF pointed to the FWC’s previous Stage 1 and Stage 2 interim decisions, which, after acknowledging that existing minimum rates did not properly compensate employees for the value of work performed, dismissed the government’s bid to phase in pay increases, instead directing them to be enacted immediately.

“We consider that the skills of direct care workers in the aged care sector have been “hidden” for the predominant reasons that the vast majority of workers are women and that there are compelling reasons to recognise this by flowing an interim wage increase to direct care workers from the earliest possible date,” the Commission ruled at the time.

In its submission, the ANMF also highlighted that applications to increase minimum rates for direct care aged care workers have been underway for some time now – 17 November 2020, with respect to the HSU’s application to vary the Aged Care Award, and since 18 May 2021 in the case of the ANMF’s application for  Nurses Award and Aged Care Award.

While the FWC has deferred further pay rises for aged care nurses working under the Nurses Award, the ANMF told the Commission it should not prevent the panel from making a decision prior to 30 June and for any increased award minimum rates of pay to take effect for those employees from that date, or immediately upon a determination being made for final wage increases for those employees.

The Albanese Government has consistently committed to fully funding any wage increases determined by the Fair Work Commission in Stage 3 of the Aged Care Work Vale Case.

Earlier this week, the government handed down its 2024-25 Budget, including an extra $88.4 million to continue to attract and retain the aged care workforce.

In its submission to the FWC last Friday, the Aged and Community Care Providers Association (ACCPA), the national association for residential aged care providers, labelled the government’s phase-in proposal disappointing.

“The timing and phasing-in of the Stage 3 wage increases as proposed by the Commonwealth is disappointing and concerning to aged care employers and employees,” ACCPA said.

“However, given the Commonwealth is the “principal funder” in the aged care sector the Joint Employers are commercially compelled to support that approach to ensure the ongoing viability of the sector.”

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