The federal government has described the Fair Work Commission’s ruling to award aged care workers a 15% pay increase as a “really strong first step” in the push to value the work of staff across the sector.
On Friday afternoon, the FWC handed down its much-anticipated decision as part of the landmark case, granting an “interim increase” in minimum wages for nurses and care workers due to it being “plainly justified by work value reasons”.
At a press conference in Queensland the following day, Aged Care Minister Anika Wells said the decision, which Labor has committed to fully funding, delivers desperately needed good news for aged care workers.
“In the first 24 hours as the Aged Care Minister I wrote to the Fair Work Commission to support the case for an aged care worker to get a pay rise,” Ms Wells recalled.
The Minister said aged care workers like Jude, who took part in the campaign for better wages, would receive an extra $4 an hour pay rise.
“We asked for this pay rise to be meaningful. And I really think it is.”
Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said the interim report of the Aged Care Royal Commission, titled Neglect, demanded that his government lift the wages of people working in the sector as part of wider reforms.
“This 15% increase will impact some 300,000 workers in the aged care sector,” Mr Albanese said.
“These are the heroes of the pandemic. They deserve more than just our thanks, they deserve a wage rise. They deserve a wage rise because the sector needs it, if it’s going to be able to survive.”
Mr Albanese stressed that the FWC’s ruling was only an interim decision, and that more stages would follow, including closing the gender pay gap.
“Eighty five per cent of these workers are female in the sector. And we need to recognise that as we’ve been saying that it is many of the feminised industries, aged care, early learning, disability care, that are dominated by women. Where women don’t have the same bargaining power as other sections of the workforce. And that is one of the explanations for why wages have been held back.”
In Parliament yesterday, questioned on how the FWC’s decision to give aged care workers a 15% pay rise would put security, dignity and humanity back into the system for workers and older Australians, Ms Wells argued that the pay rise was “desperately needed” and demonstrated the government’s commitment to fixing the crisis in aged care, including a meaningful pay rise for the workforce.
She said the decision would help workers like Teresa, a home-care worker, who can’t afford to do the job that she loves and can’t afford to pay for the petrol to fill the tank to drive from home to home.
“This 15% interim pay rise will bring some relief to her and allow her to keep doing the job that she loves. That is the right thing to do; it’s also the smart thing to do because we need to bring workers back into the aged-care workforce. We need to fill the staff shortages after nine years of neglect.”