Stakeholders reject plan to delay pay rises

The government’s proposal to defer fully funding the pay increase until 2025 for non-direct care workers and 2026 for care staff adds to the workforce crisis, say providers and unions.

The government’s proposed timeline for funding the latest pay rises is will “slow the urgent tasking of attracting and retaining staff” and “only add to the workforce crisis in the sector”, say stakeholders.

In a submission to the Fair Work Commission on Friday, the Albanese government has committed to funding the latest outcomes of the Fair Wok Commission case announced last month which includes 13 – 26 per cent for home care workers inclusive of the 15 per cent already received.

But not immediately nor, like its plans for the Stage Two increase, in one go for all staff. The government’s commitment includes funding the increase in full for non-direct care staff from January 2025, and in two stages for their direct care counterparts with half from January 2025 and the remaining half 12 months later. Oncosts are included in all cases.

The government considers this timing is appropriate to ensure adequate time for accurate calculations and legislation and system updates and “would result in those increases having a non-material impact on business and employer costs,” according to the submission.

The reasons behind the government’s decision to phase in the increase for direct care staff, according to its submission, include concerns a large one-off wage increase could draw workers from other sectors also facing worker shortages.

This has been rejected by stakeholders – including Aged and Community Care Providers Association chief executive officer Tom Symondson – who say the delay will exacerbate the aged care sector’s challenges for recruiting and retaining staff.

Tom Symondson

“Increased wages will be invaluable for attracting much-needed workers into aged care [and] any delays will only add to the workforce crisis in the sector,” said Mr Symondson in a response to questions from Community Care Review.

Last time, the FWC rejected the government’s timeline to phase in the 15 per cent increase in its decision. And the government subsequently funded the pay rise in full.

Mr Symondon is among stakeholders calling for the government to act similarly this time if the same situation occurs. .

“We expect the government to honour its pre-election commitment to fully fund the wage increases, as it did in Stage two of the FWC case. ”That promise acknowledges the sector can only afford the increases with matching government funding, said Mr Symondson. “We see it as absolutely critical that the government funding commence from the operative date for these increases in wages.”

Gerard Hayes

Gerard Hayes, national president of the Health Services Union – which lodged the landmark work value case with the FWC in 2020 – called for a faster implementation to ensure competitiveness with other sectors.

“A phase in will maintain pressure on the sector and slow the urgent tasking of attracting and retaining staff,” Mr Hayes told CCR.

“We’re not talking about getting a few more people into the sector – we’re talking about preventing the sector from haemorrhaging. With the full increase aged care will become competitive with public health. That’s completely necessary.”

Peter Hoppo

With the FWC’s decision highlighting the historical undervaluation of aged care staff, the timing is “perplexing”, said Aged Care Industry Association CEO Peter Hoppo.

“The commission’s decision underscores the need for immediate action to correct the long-standing undervaluation of aged care workers and to support the sustainability of quality care,” he said.

“We call on the government to ensure that no aged care provider is left financially burdened should the Fair Work Commission set an earlier effective date for the wage increases.”

Follow Community Care Review on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn and sign up to our newsletter.

Tags: Chris Mamarelis, FWC, Gerard Hayes, peter hoppo, Tom Symondson, work-value-case,

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *