Aegis Aged Care Pay Dispute
Friday 25 Sep 2020
At Aegis Aged Care last week, more than 1500 workers voted on whether to accept a new enterprise agreement. The majority voted No. Aegis is WA’s largest aged care provider, which we understand to be privately owned and operated by Mr Michael Cross. There are 29 separate facilities across WA caring for more than 2000 people. There are three unions representing the workers at Aegis: HSUWA, the ANF and the United Workers Union.
Workers at Aegis are covered by an existing enterprise agreement that provided a 3% pay increase from 1 July 2020. This pay increase applied even though the existing enterprise agreement had passed its ‘nominal expiry date’. This is because under the Fair
Work Act (Cth), enterprise agreements continue to apply past their ‘nominal expiry date’ until either replaced by a new enterprise agreement or terminated by application to the Fair Work Commission.
Rather than pay the 3% increase, Aegis opted to commence bargaining for a new agreement offering a 1.5% increase from 1 July 2020. Aegis decided to take a new agreement, almost an exact roll over of the existing enterprise agreement except with a pay rate of 1.5% from 1 July 2020, to a ballot of workers. This was after only a handful of bargaining meetings with the unions. The unions’ claims for items such as paid pandemic leave were rejected by Aegis.
Workers in aged care are low paid. The unions campaigned for a No vote. The majority voted No.
The next business day, Aegis filed an application to the Fair Work Commission to terminate the existing enterprise agreement. This process will now need to be opposed by the unions or there is the risk that these workers would revert to the minimum pay and conditions under the Aged Care Industry Award rather than their collectively bargained agreement.
It is our hope that the parties will return to the bargaining table while this termination process is underway.
There are many things wrong about our aged care system and you can see our union campaign for change here. But this situation also illuminates the problems with our industrial laws and the many hurdles workers face when seeking to bargain for better pay collectively under the rules of the federal Fair Work Act (Cth).