International Women’s Day: ANMF fights to protect aged care workers’ entitlements

A senior woman at home receiving healthcare.

Not only are some aged care providers refusing to pass on Government funding to give underpaid nurses and personal carers 15% wage increases, they are now threatening to cancel Enterprise Agreements, meaning workers could lose vital allowances and penalty rates, according to the Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation (ANMF).

The union revealed the developments on today’s International Women’s Day (IWD) as it continues to urge the Albanese Government to step in and urgently introduce a funding mechanism that legally requires aged care providers to pass on the pay rises.

Last month, the Fair Work Commission (FWC) ordered a 15% pay rise, to be applied by 30 June this year, for aged care nurses, carers, chefs, recreation and lifestyle officers and home care workers covered by the Nurses Award, Aged Care Award, and SCHADS Award.

According to the ANMF, some aged care providers immediately responded by rushing to lock employees into new EA’s, offering wage increases that would not pass on the full amount in a bid to try and “short-change underpaid nurses”.

Taking action, the ANMF (Victorian Branch) lodged enterprise bargaining disputes in the FWC with aged care providers who refused safeguard clauses requiring them to disclose the amount of federal funding for wage increases they receive, and commit to pass on all work value money provided by the Government as higher wages. The providers include  Lifeview (four facilities) and mecwacare (15 facilities), Villia Maria Catholic Homes (13 facilities), VMCH Corpus Christie Aged Care Residence, Deloraine Greensborough Aged Care Facility, RALAC (Ringwood Area Lions Aged Care), Westmont Aged Care Services, and Cobram Regional Care (formerly OttreyHomes).

The Fair Work Commission Conciliation hearing began this morning.

After the ANMF (Victorian Branch) filed the bargaining dispute, a bargaining representative for some of the aged care providers threatened to cancel EAs and return nurses and carers to the minimum award wages and conditions.

“Over 93% of aged care workers are women and on IWD, they should be recognised and commended for the outstanding care they give to our elderly, but instead, they are being treated with contempt,” ANMF Federal Secretary, Annie Butler said.

“It just shows the lengths that some aged care operators will take to avoid paying their workers what they are rightfully entitled to and, frankly, deserve.

If providers proceed to cancel agreements, it would means nurses and care workers could potentially lose a whole range of allowances and entitlements, such as penalty rates; paid parental leave (PPL); personal leave, professional development leave and qualification allowances, Ms Butler said.

“It’s a disgrace that yet again some providers fail to recognise the true value of their workforce. This attitude will do little to grow the workforce so desperately needed to address the aged care crisis.

“The FWC’s decision to award workers a 15% pay increase from 30 June 2023 has given us some real hope that after a decade of neglect the industry can finally start to retain and recruit nurses and carers. But this will only be achieved if the full wage increase, as determined by the FWC and supported by the Federal Government, is passed on in full to all aged care workers.”

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