Labor promises action on aged care wages and workforce – but can it deliver?

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News that the unions’ 25% wage claim case for aged care workers is set to face further delays will undoubtedly unsettle many providers this week.

The Fair Work Commission had been widely expected to hand down a decision in July, with sources tipping a 4 to 5% wage increase over the next four years.

But as we report today, Labor’s plan to make a submission to the Fair Work Commission will see the case extended into September.

At the same time, we continue to hear reports of staff exiting the sector.

The latest from operators is that financial concerns over inflation and rising interest rates are seeing even more carers look to other industries that are also crying out for staff such as hospitality.

Those that are left behind are being called on to fill the gap, working longer hours as COVID and flu also see many carers on sick leave.

New Aged Care Minister Anika Wells has re-confirmed Labor’s election promise to bring in more overseas workers.

However, the reality is this will take time.

Despite the border being re-opened, immigration is likely to remain sluggish for two years as the COVID-19 pandemic and inflation impact on countries that would traditionally provide a source of aged care workers.

A wage increase remains the best hope for a short-term boost to the workforce, while longer-term measures such as increased migration are put in place.

Let’s see if the Labor Government recognises the importance of speed here – and has a plan to fund future wage rises.