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Aged care workers secure historic 28.5% wage increase in Australia after landmark Fair Work Commission ruling


Aged care workers secure historic 28.5% wage increase in Australia after landmark Fair Work Commission ruling

In a landmark decision hailed as a major victory for aged care workers in Australia, the Fair Work Commission (FWC) has approved wage increases of up to 28.5 per cent across the sector. The resolution follows a legal battle initiated by the Health Services Union (HSU) in November 2020, advocating for a 25 per cent wage uplift for all employees within the domain, citing the complex and historically undervalued nature of their work, often due to gender-based assumptions.

Rajendra Acharya Regional Secretary for UNI Global Union for Asia and Pacific, celebrated the wage increase as a monumental win for aged care workers, stating, “This significant wage victory is not just about numbers; it’s a testament to the value and dignity of the care work sector. It marks a pivotal moment in our ongoing fight for fair compensation and recognition of the invaluable role these workers play in our society. Today, we celebrate a brighter future for aged care workers and the entire care profession.”

The FWC acknowledged that “the work of aged care sector employees has historically been undervalued, because of assumptions based on gender.” This acknowledgment is rooted in the gender-based presumptions that influenced the establishment of wage benchmarks in past awards, many of which have been perpetuated in the modern awards system.

In 2022, the Commission had provisionally increased pay for direct care employees by 15 percent, addressing some concerns but leaving the unions arguing that wages remained inadequate and insufficient to mitigate the acute shortage of aged care workers. The recent decision now adjusts the hourly wage for direct care workers to an increase of between 18 and 28 percent, inclusive of the prior 15 per cent interim rise, while support service workers, such as laundry, cleaning, and food service staff, are set to see a 6.8 per cent wage increase. This builds on the aged care unions’ campaign which resulted in the Australian government last year publicly funding a 15% wage increase for aged care workers.

The United Workers Union (UWU) also praised the decision but stressed there was still more work to do for the rights of support workers who played a crucial role in the aged care sector. “We welcome today’s historic recognition that aged care workers are at the heart of quality care for aged care residents, and should be paid accordingly,” UWU’s Aged Care Director Carolyn Smith said. “Failure to fully recognize support workers for the vital work they do in aged care is greatly disappointing for our members. Aged care workers in catering, cleaning, laundry and maintenance play a vital role in the lives of aged care residents.

The decision is expected to impact over 200,000 workers in both residential and home care settings and comes in the wake of recommendations from the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety, which highlighted the dire consequences of underpayment, including overwork, neglect, and abuse within the system.

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese acknowledged the critical need for better remuneration for aged care workers, emphasizing that “the workers who look after [our older Australians] deserve respect as well and they deserve better pay.” The Prime Minister assured that the government is committed to reviewing and responding to the FWC’s findings, in line with its earlier efforts that saw a 15 percent wage increase for aged care workers.




UNI Asia & Pacific