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Aged care pay rise 'no gift'

Friday, 22nd March, 2013

By Andrew Robertson

An aged care worker has welcomed a federal government plan to increase wages for aged care workers but said they shouldn't have to fight for it.

The government this month announced that up to $1.2 billion would be used to raise the wages of aged care nurses and care workers over the next four years.

Under the reforms, employees will receive an extra 3.5 per cent increase above wage rises negotiated through agreements with employers who sign up to a "workforce compact".

The increases are part of the government's Living Longer Living Better aged care reforms which were introduced into parliament on March 13.

But Christine Spangler, an assistant in nursing at St Anne's Nursing Home and NSW Nurses' Association delegate, said workers would not receive the increases automatically.

"We have to now put in place a new EBA (enterprise bargaining agreement) to get these pay rises," Ms Spangler said.

She said SCC staff moved onto a new agreement only last year following 18 months of difficult negotiations, and the thought of negotiating another one so soon afterwards was not appealing.

The new agreements must also be in place by December 31 in order for the first increase, due on July 1, to be provided.

Ms Spangler noted that a government pledge to increase wages for some of the nation's childcare workers did not come with the same sort of requirement.

"They didn't have to fight for that but we have to fight for it."

Workers would also be unwilling to make concessions to receive the increases.

"This has come down from the minister. We don't feel that we should have to give up anything."

Ms Spangler also said that, even with the extra increases, aged care workers would still be on wages that were about four per cent below that of hospital workers.

SCC chief executive Allan Carter said yesterday the aged care provider hadn't yet looked at the reforms "in any great detail".

He said SCC was awaiting guidance from the Aged and Community Services Association NSW, which negotiates agreements on its behalf, before deciding whether or not to sign up to the compact.

Mr Carter said SCC could sign up to the compact even if it was found that it was already paying wages above those delivered under the government reforms.

"The decision won't be made around whether we have wages above the threshold, but what is the best overall benefit for the organisation."

This was despite the fact there was no new funding for providers under the government reforms. But Mr Carter said with just over two weeks of parliament sitting time remaining before the federal election in September, the reforms were no certainty to be passed into law.

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