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Taxpayer-funding for aged care must go directly to nurses and care workers – not into providers’ pockets

Taxpayer-funding for aged care must go directly to nurses and care workers – not into providers’ pockets

The Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation (ANMF), has welcomed the Albanese Government’s funding for a long-awaited 15% pay rise for the aged care workforce, but has expressed its bitter disappointment and serious concerns that underpaid nurses and care workers may be denied better wages, because the Government has failed to impose rules on how providers actually use the money.

ANMF Federal Secretary Annie Butler said unless the Government has truly enforceable requirements tied to the billions of dollars in funding, this ‘once in a generation’ opportunity to boost the wages of tens of thousands of aged care workers, will be lost.

“While we’re pleased that the Government has delivered on its promise to increase aged care wages, our big concern is that many nursing home operators won’t pass on the money intended for workers. We have good reason to be concerned about this because this is what has happened for the last 30 years when consecutive Governments have given private aged care operators almost $2.5 billion, specifically to boost wages. There’s been a long history of lost wages and workers have been consistently let down.

“We know that some operators will do the right thing and use the money for wages, but the Government cannot give it to providers on trust. Trust is not enough. As we’ve seen with previous Government investments in aged care, with no accountability mechanisms in place, the money never actually gets into workers’ pockets. And again, with this new funding, providers will be free to use the funding to boost their bottom-line, rather than paying their workers. Many have already declared that’s exactly what they intend to do. The Government describes this as a ‘historic increase’ to ‘award wages’ but this means thousands of workers on EBAs will get nothing unless the money is tied-to employers passing on the money to the workforce.

“We’re calling on the Albanese Government to tell us why there’s no mechanism in place to ensure this taxpayer-funding goes directly to where it is specifically intended – to the underpaid nurses and care workers who continue to be promised a pay rise and continue to be let down. Otherwise the Government’s massive investment aimed at fixing aged care will be squandered and will end up as just a broken promise.

“Already, providers are claiming they can’t get enough nurses to meet the Government’s 24/7 nurse pledge by 1 July, but how can the industry ever hope to recruit or retain skilled nurses and care workers, without giving them the wage increase they deserve?

“We’re urging the Government not to allow providers to ‘game’ the system – and use the Budget to set the rules and introduce accountability for a massive amount of public money, otherwise the industry just won’t have the workers to ensure nursing home residents get better care. And nurses and care workers will be let down yet again.”