Published: 15/07/2021
Category: Retired Unionists Network
Published: 15/07/2021
Category: Retired Unionists Network

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Most RUN monthly meetings include a guest presentation, usually from a union on one of their campaigns of interest to retired unionists.  Here’s some recent guest speakers we’ve heard from and some points from the discussion. 

Thursday 24 June Guest speakers:  Carolyn Smith (National Director Aged Care, WA State Secretary, United Workers Union) and Lauren Hutchins (National Director Aged Care, WA State Secretary, United Workers Union) on Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety. 

The Royal Commission highlights what has been known for decades – Australia’s aged care system has systematically abused older Australians due to systemic underfunding, understaffing and underpayment of workers.  

May 2021 Budget Failure  

Despite announcing $17.7 billion over 5 years this amount falls well short of the extra $10 billion a year needed to fully implement the Royal Commission’s recommendations.  

The government has agreed to: 

  • accept 107 of the 148 recommendations; accept 19 in principle;  but reject six relating to sustainable long term funding model that includes tax increases or levies to fund improvements to the system    
  • report total care staffing minutes by registered nurses, enrolled nurses and personal care workers on a quarterly basis. It will also introduce a star rating system which will be published from 1 July 2022 
  • guarantee a minimum care time of 200 minutes a day; have a registered nurse onsite for 16 hours per day from 1 October 2023  
  • Provide an additional $10 a day per resident from 1 July 2021  
  • Provide an extra 80,000 new home care packages (but does not deal with the backlog of 100,000 home care packages;  difficult to attract workers on low pay)  
  • Spend more on dementia care and nutrition in aged care facilities  

Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety Recommendations: 

Australian Government Response to the Final Report of the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety, May 2021:

Aged Care Workforce Industry Council  

HSU’s engagement with the Aged Care Workforce Industry Council is less than ideal.  Many of its Council Directors are CEO’s of the-for-profit aged care industry.  They refuse to address the real barriers to improving the aged care sector – better working conditions and rates of pay for its workers (the average hourly pay for an Aged Care Worker in Australia is $23.22.  The average part time retail salary in Australiais $25.31 per hour). 

Without financial transparency, the public has no way of knowing how providers spend the billions of dollars of government subsidies – on improved aged care or shareholder profit?   

What do we do now?   

It is critical that strong action is taken to ensure all the Royal Commission’s recommendations are fully implemented.  Pressure must be on the government leading into the upcoming Federal election.   

Activate Aged Care workers 

HSU are empowering their aged care workers to take action, including industrial action.  A significant proportion of aged care workers are from culturally diverse backgrounds and many are on student visas or partners of 457 visas.   

Aged Care WATCH campaign  

HSU plans to launch a digital and online ‘Aged Care WATCH’ where members of the public, across the nation, can share their experiences of aged care and report understaffing and failures. 

HSU invites RUN to learn more about Aged Care WATCH campaign, when this online resource is ready.  

Thursday 27 May: Guest Speaker: Erin Sales, Australian Industry Superannuation (AIST) 

The Government’s proposed ‘Your Future, Your Super’ Bill was intended to improve Australia’s superannuation system but instead it is an attack on union industry super funds that have so successfully provided good superannuation for Australian retirees.   

The Bill proposes a new ‘stapling system’ that traps members in underperforming funds rather than allowing them to automatically ‘default’ into better industry super funds that are tailored to their particular industry eg if a worker starts work at McDonalds but then is re-employed in the high risk construction industry s/he is locked into the original lower performing hospitality superannuation. 

The Bill proposes draconian penalties on trustees regardless as to whether their investments are in the best financial interest of its members.  The Bill also gives the Government power to ban ethical investments (which now give better financial returns).  The Bill creates investment uncertainty because of onerous red tape and reversal of the burden of proof. 

Thursday 29 April: Guest Speaker – Sue Bellino, Political Director, Australian Nurses and Midwifery Federation (ANMF)  

The ANMF is calling on the Morrison Government to make aged care a priority in Budget 2021 and implement staff ratios laws in every aged care facility, on every shift, at any time.  

The tragic coronavirus aged care deaths during the COVID 2020 have vindicated the ANMF’s campaigns that began in 1997 when Howard deregulated the aged care health sector and opened it to large corporate profit driven aged care providers that have made billions in profits at the expense of quality aged care.    

The ANMF calls for five reforms to achieve the necessary change in aged care.  These are supported in the Royal Commission into Aged Care Final Report 

1. Mandated staffing ratios – minimum staffing levels and skills mix 

2. Legislated requirements for clinical governance, leadership, and expertise 

3. Legislated transparency and accountability measures 

4. Guaranteeing workforce capacity and capability 

5. Registration for unregulated care workers 

Please donate a few minutes of your time to help ANMF campaign at 

Tuesday 25 February 2021: Guest Speaker – Don Sutherland, LIFE – Living Incomes for Everyone  

LIFE formed 10 months ago in the context of the COVID pandemic and the disastrous future of so many living on low income post COVID.  LIFE opposed the poverty $40 a day unemployment allowance of NewStart and was pleased to see its increase during the pandemic with the JobSeeker supplement along with JobKeeper.   

LIFE continues its advocacy during the Covid post recovery period and questions the efficacy of a “business led recovery”. 

LIFE does not seek to replace the hard advocacy work of low income organisations, welfare groups, and the trade union movement who have fought courageously to make a fairer Australia.  LIFE aims to build a coalition of organisations and build advocacy and research. 

LIFE opposes the Government’s refusal to increase unemployment benefits and their punishing ‘mutual obligation’ doctrine that are akin to “penal provisions” that punishes people for being unemployed and promotes the myth that the unemployed are “bludging off taxpayers.   

LIFE now has 82 organisations that endorses “living incomes for everyone”.  LIFE has held two national online conferences and these can be watched on their Youtube site.  

LIFE’s focus is now to challenge the Government’s despicable “increase” to the unemployment benefit – $43.50 a day starting from 1 April – a policy that will drive more Australians into poverty.   

LIFE will hold a Week of Action March 15-19.  On 19 March LIFE will hold a COVID safe rally in Melbourne at Treasury Gardens and then march to the Fair Work Commission highlight the inequity of the Omnibus Bill. 

We need to build up numbers so that each next event will be bigger and the movement will grow and grow and contribute to a change of government.  The goal of $550 a week will happen after 12 months after a change of government.  Any new government needs to recognise that no Australian should live in poverty. 

LIFE has yet grappled with low income pensioners living in aged care but it is on their agenda.   

LIFE Rallies are occurring across the nation – in Victoria, South Australia (with Anti-Poverty Network);  ACT (Vintage Reds rally on Tuesday 16 March focusing on “No cashless welfare debit card and speaker Catherine Wilkins). 

Guest speakers at recent Retired Unionists Network meetings

Guest speakers at recent Retired Unionists Network meetings