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Once-in-a-generation wage increase sees many aged care rates reach parity with public sector (with more increases potentially on the way)

Once-in-a-generation wage increase sees many aged care rates reach parity with public sector (with more increases potentially on the way)

The private aged care sector has had an exciting 18 months with enormous change: mandated 24/7 RNs, mandated care minutes (increasing to 215 minutes per resident per day, including 43 RN minutes in October 2024), a star rating system for facilities and a new AN ACC funding system, to name just a few.

Each reform has had its problems and challenges – like the failure to separately mandate and fund EN minutes. But the overall impact has been positive: more staffing, more regulation, more transparency and more accountability for providers. It has been a long time coming and since the early 2000s the ANMF has been at the forefront of campaigns to achieve these reforms.

But just as exciting for nurses and carers in aged care has been the improvement in wages. The main vehicle for this has been the Aged Care Work Value Case (ACWVC) which has been heard in the Fair Work Commission (FWC) from 2022 and is still on-going. The need for better wages to reward, attract and retain staff was recognised by the Royal Commission into Aged Care which reported in February 2021. It recommended that a Work Value Case be initiated in FWC by the ANMF and other unions.

Stage 2 interim increases 2023

The main result of that application to date has been the Stage 2 interim decision of November 2022 which boosted all Nurses Award and Aged Care Award rates for direct-care nurses and carers by 15 per cent from 30 June 2023.

The Albanese Government committed around $8,000 million (yes, $8 billion) over four years to fund these increases for all staff across the sector, not just those on basic Award rates.

The dollar amounts equivalent to that 15 per cent increase for each classification were applied to each enterprise agreement rate in July last year. For example, on top of your current EBA rate,

  • every Cert III carer received a boost of $3.71 per hour or $144.20 per week (for a full-timer)
  • each EN received around $3.98 per hour or $151 per week
  • Grade 2 RNs received about $4.98 per hour or $189 per week
  • and Grade 5 CCs or After-Hours Coordinators received $5.70 per hour or about $216 per week.

This equated to a 10 to 11 per cent increase for most RNs, about 12 per cent for most ENs and more than 13 per cent per cent for most carers (depending on what your EBA rates were at that time).

Virtually every employer passed on the ACWVC increases correctly (plus boosting shift allowances and other penalties). There were a few, like Menarock, who didn’t apply it fully in relation to their RNs. There were a few others, like Doutta Galla, who applied the increase correctly but then failed to pass on a 2.75 per cent increase scheduled under their enterprise agreement in September 2023. We have also had issues getting increases for several hundred nurses in head office education, operations and quality roles across a range of networks.

But overall, the vast majority did the right thing. It was an enormous amount of work across the ANMF to meet with every employer and make sure they passed on this once-in-a-generation increase correctly. This boost in rates means that at the best aged care networks the rates at the start of 2024 were near, or even above, the public sector rates for both ENs and RNs. It has already had a huge workforce impact with staff reporting in surveys that they feel more valued and are now more likely to stay in the industry.

Stage 3 still to come

But that isn’t the end of it. The FWC is about to issue their Stage 3 decision, which will determine:

  • whether direct-care workers (including nurses and carers) will receive further increases on top of the 15 per cent in Stage 2 (for work value changes to infection prevention and control and staffing in particular)
  • what work value increases (if any) will apply to non-direct care workers doing food services, laundry, maintenance and other roles who didn’t receive anything from Stage 2 last year
  • changes to the carer classification structures in the Aged Care Award, which may have flow on effects in our enterprise agreements.

We are expecting a draft decision from FWC by 15 March, and a final decision by the end of March. The Commonwealth has indicated that they will fully fund the Stage 3 outcome but they need four weeks to calculate the necessary funding before the May 14 Budget. If there are further work value increases, we would expect them to be applied from 30 June 2024 like last year – so any increases should be passed on by your employer in July and August at the latest.

Your EBA is still crucial!

The work value increases are in addition to, not a replacement for, the usual employer-funded wage increases under your enterprise agreement (EBA). The employers have received sufficient extra funding under the new AN-ACC funding model, on top of the $8b last year for work value increases, to provide 2.5 or 3 per cent annual increases as well. We need to keep getting those employer-funded wage increases in our EBAs so that the great result from the aged care work value isn’t absorbed and lost. We also need to ensure the boosted rates from the work value increases are reflected in your enterprise agreement.

It is vital that you support the ANMF when it comes time to renew your enterprise agreement. We need more members, more Job Reps and more engagement with nurses and carers so we get better results in bargaining. Contact if you can help as an ANMF contact or Job Representative.

This year we have some big employers who need to renew their EBAs: Bolton Clarke (Allity/McKenzie), Mecwacare, Estia, Regis, Bupa, Mercy, VMCH, Royal Freemasons, Uniting Agewell, Doutta Galla, Homestyle, Mayflower, Benetas, Wintringham, St Vincents Care, Churches of Christ and Heritage Care, just to name a few.

We have recently completed Blue Cross and Calvary, the biggest providers in Victoria with over 30 facilities each. We are just about to finish Baptcare. They are setting new standards for aged care – with wins like access to long service leave at 7 years, super payments on unpaid leave and recognition of unpaid parental leave as service for the purposes of accruing long service leave.

At January 2024 here is a comparison between current rates for major networks covering more than 50 per cent of the 595 private aged care facilities in Victoria. We have used key EN, RN and carer classifications (with the December 2022 public sector rates as a guide for nurses, noting they will increase in May 2024):

EN top rate (*pay 4% med allowance separately RN Grade 2 top rate Grade 5 AH Coordinator/CCC Cert III PCW 2 top rate (*pay nauseous allowance separately)
Public Sector $1368.20 $1834.20 $2294.70
Arcare $1448.18 $1807.28 $2202.10 $1201.60
Baptcare $1414.80 $1854.76 $2264.93 $1239.85
Benetas $1443.19 $1804.52 $2187.86 $1206.59
Blue Cross $1462.79 $1843.18 $2254.41 $1203.34
Bupa $1446.28 $1818.30 $2213.88 $1200.04*
Calvary $1481.66 $1860.64 $2266.60 $1232.38
Estia $1447.80 $1818.30 $2233.26 $1204.22*
Fronditha $1475.28 $1838.93 $2224.27 $1268.17
Homestyle $1436.40 $1804.62 $2197.54 $1201.70*
Mecwacare $1370.55* $1800.79 $2228.61 $1189.63*
Mercy $1406.84 $1810.88 $2223.83 $1213.48
Opal $1372.83* $1820.96 $2170.94 $1184.46*
Regis $1429.69 $1852.35 $2206.08 $1206.41
TLC Aged Care $1422.47 $1778.63 $2171.52 $1191.92
Uniting Agewell $1468.63 $1825.57 $2240.80 $1204.11
Villa Maria CHs $1424.56 $1833.84 $2232.18 $1229.03
Wintringham $1451.87 $1895.60 $2404.08 $1246.16

As you can see, aged care has come a long way in a short space of time. We could never have imagined, only a few years ago, that aged care RN and EN rates would be in touching distance of the public sector.

You have your union to thank for that – with many long years of advocacy by numerous staff at ANMF federal office and Vic Branch. But importantly, you also need to thank the Albanese Labor Government, who made it a priority to fund the aged care work value outcomes and turned our dream for wage justice into a reality.

The ANMF will communicate what the Stage 3 increases are (if any) as soon as we know. It is also important you report any problems related to your employer passing on any ACWV increases in July and August.