What price for the vote of an aged care worker?
For an increasingly desperate Scott Morrison, it would seem it’s a paltry $400.
The Prime Minister underlined his ignorance and indifference of the plight of aged care workers with his recent promise of two-one off payments of $400 for aged care workers who have been battling on the frontline of the pandemic for two years.
“None of our health outcomes would be possible without the hard work, long hours and dedicated care offered by our frontline health and aged care workforce,” Scott Morrison told the National Press Club.
Mr Morrison’s rhetoric was once again not matched by any commitment to implement any of the fundamental recommendations proposed in the recent Royal Commission Into Aged Care Quality and Safety.
No commitment to end rampant labour hire and casualisation practices or under staffing. Nothing on meaningful and sustained wage rises. Training and professional development were also given a pass.
Health Services Union national secretary Lloyd Williams spoke up for the thousands of union members in the aged care sector across the country. He told On the Job that Scott Morrison’s cash offer was little more than desperate politics.
“It’s Scott Morrison cynical attempt to buy off Aged Care Workers before the election,” Mr Williams said.
“Throughout this whole pandemic crisis that has disproportionately impacted on our aged care services, Scott Morrison and his ministers have been missing in action. He didn’t listen to the Royal Commission recommendation. He certainly didn’t support our calls for increased wages for aged care workers.”
“Now he thinks that aged care workers can be bought off with a cheaper, nasty ploy before the election. I think it’s quite disgraceful,” he said.
Aged Care and Community Services Australia CEO Paul Sadler echoed Williams’s comments, proposing a preferred alternative to the government’s pay bonus election stunt.
“We need the government to step forward and support an increase in aged care workers’ wages,” he said.
Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation federal secretary Annie Butler told On the Job that workers know an election vote gambit when they see one.
“The baseline response here is that our members say that there must be an election around the corner and this is just a carrot [from the government] to make them slightly less hated right at this moment,” she said.
“It’s still not providing any solid commitment in any way, shape, or form to a long term, real wage increase.”
“We need wages that reflect the importance of the job that’s being done – The responsibilities related to the work, the intensity of the work both physically, mentally, emotionally.”
“We also need secure employment. We need guaranteed jobs, guaranteed hours supported by decent career paths and proper wages and most important of all, proper mandated minimum staffing levels, the right numbers of the right types of staff across the sector,” Ms Butler said.
Mr Williams was unimpressed by the Morrison government’s florid praise for workers in the aged care sector.
“They will give billions of dollars to businesses for JobKeeper where businesses have profiteered out of it. They could get all of that money back and that would make a start on repairing the crisis that we have in aged care services,” he said.
So they want to throw billions of dollars at big business in this country, but they don’t want to support our most vulnerable. In my view it just epitomises the meanness of the Morison government when it comes to vulnerable Australians and the dedicated workers that are so committed to trying to make their lives better.”
Meanwhile, the crisis in the aged care sector remains a heartbreaking reality for both workers and residents according to Ms Butler.
“One of the incredible burdens for aged care workers at the moment is the massively increased workloads on what was already an unsafe staffing level.”
“And the things that used to hold them there, like a commitment to their residents, commitment to the type of work they were doing, and to their colleagues just isn’t there anymore, it just can’t hold them.”
“And so these payments – these little carrots – are not going to work to try and incentivise aged care workers to just keep doing this work forever or to recruit more people into the sector. It’s so shortsighted and insulting,” Ms Butler said.