Three-quarters of aged care workers are considering leaving the sector within the next six months if they do not receive a significant pay increase, according to a new survey.
The Health Services Union (HSU) released the data, Aged Care Snapshot: The Brink of Collapse, on the steps of the Fair Work Commission in Sydney this morning as it looks to ramp up its case for a full 25% pay increase across the entire workforce.
Its continuing campaign follows the FWC’s decision to award aged care workers a 15% “interim” pay rise earlier this month. While welcomed, the decision did not include many parts of the aged care workforce such as support workers, kitchen staff, cleaners and administration.
Almost 2,000 aged care workers, many whom earn as little as $22 per hour to care for residents, completed the survey.
More than nine in 10 respondents said securing the full 25% pay increase was “extremely important” to them. Of the 75% considering leaving the sector, most said they expected to move on “soon” or within the next six months, with disability care the preferred next step for most respondents, followed by retail.
“I have been punched, kicked, spat on, hair pulled and verbally abused. These times have been difficult but not nearly as difficult as working extremely short staffed constantly, as no new workers want to join the industry because of the pay rate and conditions we have to work in,” survey participant Kerry said.
“Almost every day I want to cry because I feel like we are understaffed and undervalued. I always feel like these residents deserve more time individually, instead of a rush and then on to the next resident. I guess every day is the biggest challenge solely because I feel like they deserve more, and I can’t give that to them because of the aged care system and the lack of staffing and wages,” added Jade.
HSU National President Gerard Hayes said a full and comprehensive pay rise for all aged care workers was “beyond urgent” as the sector teeters on the brink of collapse.
“Aged care is on the verge of a mass resignation that will trigger the sector’s collapse,” Mr Hayes warned.
“This is not a problem that can be solved by bringing in the army or phasing in a pay rise. We need an urgent injection of money into the bank accounts of workers.”
Mr Hayes said aged care workers commonly experience abuse, pain and back breaking strain.
“They do some of society’s most unpleasant and demanding work. And until now they have been paid three-fifths of bugger all with pathetic job security,” he said.
The FWC handed down its much-anticipated decision on the landmark work value case earlier this month.
In a summary of its decision, the FWC said an “interim increase” of 15% in minimum wages for nurses and care workers working in aged care covered by the Nurses Award, Aged Care Award and Social, Community, Home Care and Disability Services Award (SCHADS) was “plainly justified by work value reasons”.
Three unions, the Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation (ANMF) and Health Services Union (HSU), supported by the United Workers Union (UWU), lodged applications with the FWC for a 25% wage increase for aged care workers. The unions’ claim was that the work of aged care workers had never been properly valued and is in fact significantly undervalued.
The timing of the pay rise, and how it will be introduced, is still to be decided and unions, including the ANMF, are continuing to fight to lift wages further.