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A Labor government will establish an expert panel in the Fair Work Commission (FWC) specifically to help low-paid care workers bargain for improved wages and conditions.

The Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation (ANMF) has welcomed Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese’s election pledge, with the union long arguing that Australia’s industrial relations (IR) system disadvantages the highly-casualised and insecure aged care and community workforce as it can’t bargain for better wages and conditions given their employers are mostly government-funded entities.

ANMF Federal Secretary, Annie Butler said while most Australian workers can negotiate with their employers, union members working in the care and community sectors simply don’t have that bargaining power.

“Unlike other sectors where negotiations take place directly with the ‘economic employer’, the Government isn’t compelled to be involved in negotiations for wages and conditions with workers in the sectors it funds, like aged care and disability care,” Ms Butler said.

“It means that these workers, predominantly female, continue to be under-valued and underpaid, because they don’t have the ability to bargain with the government entities that control the funding available for their wages, particularly in the aged care sector.”

Mr Butler said Mr Albanese’s pledge to establish a specific expert panel in the FWC dealing with the care sector would finally recognise and address the lack of equal access these workers have negotiating fair wages and conditions by giving them parity with all other workers in Australia.

The ANMF has also welcomed Mr Albanese’s promise that a Labor government would make gender pay equity an object of the Fair Work Act, making it easier for the FWC ‘to order pay increases for workers in low-paid, female-dominated industries’.