Childcare workers target PM over low pay rates – will aged care be next?

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Childcare workers have called directly on PM Malcolm Turnbull for better pay – even chaining themselves to his Melbourne office’s doors back in March.

They earn as little as $20.61 an hour, or almost half the national average wage.

But what about aged care? Historically aged care workers have made even less.

Perhaps that’s why staff at the award-winning 70-bed Wynyard Care Centre in northwest Tasmania have turned down a pay rise of 7.5% over two years offered by Sydney-based operator Synovum Care Group last week. Inflation is currently 1.9%.

They have been on strike since April 21.

Synovum had proposed a new agreement after a Fair Work Commission hearing, but in January 2017, most workers voted against it.

Staff will now return to work, but have said they will continue their protest in ways that won’t affect residents, including banning work on all documents associated with ACFI which provides Synovum’s funding.

Workers at Bupa’s Echuca aged care home were also being encouraged to turn down a new pay offer, which includes a 2.3% wage increase, which was put to staff at its 26 facilities across VIC last week.

The Australian Nursing and Midwifery Foundation set up a big billboard outside the home to sway staff, saying they have negotiated wage rises of 10 per cent over four years with other aged care groups.

But a spokesperson for Bupa said the pay comparisons with other providers were “inaccurate” and did not account for penalty rates and allowances.

“While we would obviously like to be able to give staff more, the offer is higher than the average wage increase in Victoria of 1.9 per cent, as well as inflation,” he said.

“The increase in government funding to care for our residents was just one per cent for the final year of the current agreement with no increase for 2017, which means a higher offer is not sustainable.”

Is all this a sign that our aged care workers are realising they are a rare resource?