The government’s announcement to pay aged care workers a retention bonus of pro-rata payments of up to $400 is grossly inadequate, unions and aged care peak bodies warn.
According to a joint statement released by the ACTU and other unions, including the Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation (ANMF) as well as the Australian Aged Care Collaboration (AACC), the retention bonus does not address their call last month for additional payments to workers under enormous strain working to protect older vulnerable people during the COVID Omicron surge.
The statement said aged care providers and unions were resolute in their call on the Prime Minister to do more than a two-payment bonus for overwhelmed aged care workers at nursing homes, and those delivering services out in the community right across the country.
The bodies argued that it remained to be seen how the proposed short-term payment would prevent a feared exodus of staff from the frontline.
“The escalating crisis in aged care due to the Omicron surge has left aged care workers experiencing extraordinary levels of worker stress as they do their very best to meet residents’ needs, while being dangerously understaffed, working double shifts and endure long hours in personal protective equipment,” the statement said.
“Aged care staff are exhausted and burnt out, with many working for days around the clock. Resignations due to fatigue and feeling undervalued continue to devastate the sector. We need an ongoing Covid-19 payment to be paid on each shift to recognise and incentivise aged care workers.”
As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to magnify the structural deficiencies in the aged care system identified by the Royal Commission, unions and aged care peak bodies are calling for the need for action from the federal government to make sure that aged care workers and services are resourced and enabled better care for and protect older Australians. They state this means having a plan for more staff, with better pay and improved skills and qualifications. Alongside adequate funding for services to maintain infection protection measures to keep people safe.