Latrobe City is planning to privatise its in-home aged care services from next year after councillors agreed on the decision in a behind closed doors meeting in 2019.
The move is raising concerns from Australian Services Union members who are distributing a petition in an effort to stop the plan from going ahead.
The union is calling on Latrobe City to press pause on the move and to consult with the community.
It comes after Latrobe City councillors decided to outsource the service in 2022 in an in-camera session held two years ago.
Latrobe City employs more than 100 in-home aged care workers, but union members fear wages, working conditions and client welfare could be threatened under the decision.
The ASU stated the private sector provides lower conditions than local governments, and employees could be pushed into precarious work on insecure short-term or casual contracts.
The union pointed out the gaps in service delivery between government and for-profit services, in such areas as continuity of care, quality of communication and worker training.
ASU secretary Lisa Darmanin said Latrobe City should consult with its own in-home aged care workers before attempting to privatise the service.
“Privatising in-home aged care services would risk the quality of services provided to older residents in the city of Latrobe and push already low-paid workers into insecure work,” Ms Darmanin said.
“Some of the people in-home aged care workers care for are all alone, and without the continuity of care that council carers provide, their welfare could be at risk.”
Traralgon woman Elaine Ketchion had used the Latrobe City service to care for her mother Eileen Cook, who needed some help with shopping and home duties.
Ms Ketchion said she feared service recipients may not be able to develop a rapport with their carers under privatisation.
“Older people need continuity rather than seeing a different person every week, they like to know who is coming and they get to trust them and the worker gets to know their requirements,” Ms Ketchion said.
“It’s important to keep it in the council as it’s a community service and the workers do such a great job. It’s all about the almighty dollar once it’s privatised and not about benefiting the clientele.”
Latrobe City councillor Graeme Middlemiss said he opposed the decision made in 2019, stating it should be reviewed once council was presented with the union petition.
“Like a vast number of people in the Valley, I have had extensive experience with privatisation and I understand concerns that privatisation hasn’t worked for the benefit of people in the Valley,” Cr Middlemiss said.
“Council made a decision to privatise, but I wasn’t in favour of this decision and it wouldn’t hurt for council to review this decision.”
However, a Latrobe City spokesperson said council was “neither privatising nor outsourcing”, but working with the Commonwealth Government – which provides the funding for the service – to find an “alternate provider”.
“The involvement of Victorian local governments in home based aged care was vastly different from other states and territories, most had no part in it whatsoever,” the spokesperson said.
“Based on the commonwealth government’s reform agenda, from July 2023, there will be an entirely new system in place moving away from the funded model we currently have to a more individualised integrated service approach.”