Elderly woman lifts small dumbells with her aged care physiotherapist.

As many Members will be aware, the HSU ran the successful Change Aged Care campaign to lobby the Federal Government to better fund Aged Care. While reform is underway following the Royal Commission process, importantly in 2020, the HSU also lodged a work value case in the Fair Work Commission arguing the pay rates in the residential aged care sector were too low and for there to be a 25% pay increase for every worker.

The modern award that covers this sector is the Aged Care Industry Award and it includes the minimum pay rates and conditions for different occupations.

Modern awards are the minimum safety net of pay and conditions in the private sector, which underpin enterprise agreements.

At the end of 2022, after considering extensive evidence, the Fair Work Commission made its Stage 1 decision and awarded an interim 15% pay rise to the occupations providing direct care under the Aged Care Industry Award. More hearings occurred throughout 2023, as the HSU fought for all workers to receive a full 25% increase.

Last Friday, the Fair Work Commission issued its Stage 3 decision which boosted pay rates up to 28% for direct care workers (inclusive of the 15% increase from the Stage 1 decision). Indirect care workers such as food service assistants, cleaners and laundry hands are eligible for an increase of up to 6.96%, with other workers, including administration staff receiving a 3% increase.

The Fair Work Commission determined that there was a historic gender-based undervaluation of care work in Australian industrial law and awarded different pay increases for the different occupations in their decision, on this basis. It is a long and detailed decision.

There is still significant work ahead to ensure this historic win, based on recognising a gender-based undervaluation of work in the care sector, leads to higher minimum pay rates for more workers.

This work value case was made and won by union Members, and change is now underway. We haven’t won everything we want yet and in the interim HSUWA Members are sticking together to keep up the fight.

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