KEY POINTS – AGED CARE WAGE MONEY VANISHES
- 1996: Keating Labor government announces $50 million for wage parity in aged care.
- 2002: Howard Coalition government treasurer Peter Costello announces $222.1 million for more aged care nurses and to increase wages.
- 2004: Howard Coalition government minister for ageing Julie Bishop announces an extra $877 million to pay aged care nurses more competitive wages.
- 2013: Gillard Labor government announces $1.2 billion to increase aged care nurses and carers wages. Following the 2013 election, the Abbott Coalition government redirected the money into general aged care funding.
Additional funding was not quarantined for wages and was not tracked. Each time ANMF started enterprise bargaining after these cash injections, aged care providers said they could not afford wage increases. When employers agreed to modest increases, care hours were reduced.
Additional federal government funding specifically to boost aged care nurses’ and carers’ wages has never made its way into pay packets, the aged care royal commission has heard.
Appearing before the commission, ANMF (Vic Branch) Secretary Paul Gilbert said additional funds had been provided to aged care employers multiple times over the past two decades but had never resulted in increased wages.
‘The Commonwealth Government has increased taxpayer subsidies to aged care to improve wages, and not once did that deliver a dollar in improved wages,’ Mr Gilbert said.
The Keating, Howard and Gillard governments had all announced substantial funding to boost aged care nurses’ wages, he said.
The most recent was the Gillard government’s $1.2 billion workforce supplement. The funding was tied to funds to increased aged care nurses’ and personal care workers’ wages in enterprise agreements. The Abbott government scrapped the scheme and converted the funds to general aged care funding pool.
ANMF negotiates wages and conditions for registered nurses, enrolled nurses and personal care workers in 599 private and not-for-profit aged care facilities in Victoria.
Mr Gilbert told the royal commission that Victorian private-for-profit and not-for-profit aged care nurses earned the same as public aged care and public hospital nurses in the 1990s. The wage gap emerged between the sectors following the introduction of enterprise bargaining.
Today, despite the injection of more than $2 billion in federal government funding to boost wages, a Victorian nurse working in private-for-profit or not-for-profit residential aged care earns about 19 per cent less than a nurse doing the same work in a public aged care facility or a public hospital.
Similarly, personal care workers’ wages were also low, sometimes falling behind the Aged Care Award rates if an enterprise agreement expires and an employer refuses to renegotiate a new one.
Mr Gilbert said personal care workers told him they could ‘get paid more working on the checkout at Aldi’ when they see jobs advertised with an hourly rate of $24, $25 and $26.
They see themselves as being treated as having ‘less worth’, he said.
‘Our enrolled nurse and registered nurse members are paid more than the personal care worker cohort but not by a whole lot more.’
ANMF (Vic Branch) Assistant Secretary Paul Gilbert speaking at the Royal Commission into Aged Care Safety and Quality about what happened to federal government funding specifically for nurses’ and carers’ wages. Mr Gilbert mentions three funding boosts. We have since added a fourth as there were actually two funding boosts for aged care wages under the Howard government.
(Video taken from the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety website.)