Legislation must be passed through parliament before the end of June for the government’s pledged $1.2 billion in pay rises to flow through to the pay packets of Australia’s 350,000 aged care nurses and workers from July.
Australian Nursing Federation Assistant Federal Secretary Yvonne Chaperon said it’s vital the legislation is passed before June 27, parliament’s last sitting day in the lead up to the election, to ensure the government’s $3.7 billion Living Longer, Living Better aged care reform package is implemented.
“It’s really important for us that those bills go before parliament and are passed before the end of June,” she said.
“Our concerns are (if the legislation isn’t passed) that the money won’t flow and our concern is that all of the work that we have put into the Living Longer and Living Better reforms, and it’s an incredible amount of work by the aged care industry, will be lost.
“I just hope that the senate inquiry listens to all the evidence and weighs it up appropriately. We believe it’s good legislation, it’s positive for the aged care sector and we hope it’s passed.”
Ms Chaperon represented the ANF, and joined United Voice, last week to brief the government’s senate inquiry into the reforms, ahead of the bills being debated in parliament.
Ms Chaperon said despite some criticism of the plan to tie the wage rise to enterprise bargaining agreements, the measure was the best way to ensure the funds are directly passed onto workers after a similar Howard Government initiative 10 years ago failed to result in increased wages in aged care workers’ pay packets.
“It’s extremely important that this money reaches the aged care workers and we believe it is fundamental that the way this happens is through enterprise bargaining negotiations or an agreement,” she said.
“We think this is the most simple, accountable and transparent way to ensure this money is spent where the money should be spent.”
Ms Chaperon said the reforms include exemptions from enterprise bargaining agreements for providers, including facilities which have less than 50 beds.
“There are a few providers saying it’s erroneous for them because they don’t have enterprise bargaining agreements,” she said.
“We have a comprehensive database in Australia; across Australia 85 to 95 per cent of facilities around Australia have enterprise agreements.
“Those agreements are already in place. We don’t see it as erroneous; we see it as a continuing of the status quo really.
“There’s no obligation for an aged care provider to sign up to the policy.”
Ms Chaperon said the union also supported the proposal to remove the distinction between low care and high care.
“We support the removal but we don’t want these changes to be used to dictate the skills mix to nursing services provided to aged care residents,” she said.
“The removal of the distinction reflects the reality that aged care facilities have a mix of low and high care.
“We expect more nurses not less nurses to be employed in the sector. Because of the changing nature of
aged care and the reforms people will be living in their homes for longer. They will have home care.
“However, when they do get to aged care facilities they are going to be older, frailer and sicker so the acuity is going to be higher.
“We are saying we want their acuity to be matched with the appropriate qualified nursing care. The same goes for home care.”
Under the government’s aged care reforms, pay rises of about $46 a week or $2390 a year for registered nurses, $35 a week or $1820 a year for enrolled nurses and $29 a week or $1510 a year for assistants in nursing (AINs) will be delivered by 2016.
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