The Health Services Union claims its fight for a 25 per cent wage increase for aged care workers will act as a “post-pandemic stimulus” while finally recognising the true value of frontline carers.
The HSU will on Thursday launch a landmark case in the Fair Work Commission to lift wages for the aged care workforce by 25 per cent.
If successful, the HSU says it will create an additional 59,000 jobs and provide almost 90 minutes of additional care per resident per day.
While the percentage figure may be substantial to many, the HSU argues aged care workers are just above minimum wage and paid less, in some categories, than petrol station attendants and supermarket clerks.
The starting rate for a personal carer is $21.96 per hour. Should the HSU succeed, the hourly rate for a qualified personal carer would rise from $23.09 to $28.86 an hour.
The average carer retires with $18,000 in superannuation, the HSU claimed.
HSU president Gerard Hayes said a significant increase in wages would create more stable and long-term career paths while finally acknowledging the importance of specialist carers in areas like dementia or palliative care.
“Aged care in this country has relied for too long on the goodwill of an underpaid and insecure workforce of women. It’s time for change,” Mr Hayes said.
“They provide care and support to our most vulnerable, to residents enduring episodes of sadness and at times anger.
“They should be recognised and paid for their skills. This would be a post-pandemic stimulus package.”
He said a more equitable pay rate for carers would prevent a massive leaking of the workforce, with a recent survey revealing about 40 per cent of all carers would leave the industry after just five years.
“This pay rise is an issue of justice, but it also goes to the sustainability of the system, Mr Hayes said.
“Four in 10 aged care workers intend to leave the sector within the next five years because they are at breaking point.
“A workforce crisis is coming unless we see a significant boost to pay.”
The overall cost to the federal government would be slightly more than $20 billion over the next four years to fund the wage rise.
The HSU has costed the increase and believes it can be funded by raising the Medicare level 0.65 per cent rise.
The wage claim comes after a HSU report commissioned for the royal commission into aged care stated only 42.5 per cent of Australia’s aged care facilities were meeting satisfactory standards.