Higher wages wanted for aged care sector

Photograph Royal Freemasons



ROYAL Freemasons has welcomed the federal government’s commitment to fund higher wages for aged care workers, but wants to wait for the details in the 2023-24 Budget before commenting on whether they will give their workers a 15 per cent pay rise.

The aged care provider’s chief executive John Fogarty said it would be “premature” for Royal Freemason’s to comment on the proposed pay rise for nurses and care workers before the federal budget, which will be handed down by the government today.

“We await the final announcement so we can best understand how the government is planning to structure and implement these pay increases,” Mr Fogarty said.

“We welcome and applaud the commitment from government to support increased pay for our valued workforce, who continue to provide high quality care to our ageing community, and we hope that better pay will attract more people to the struggling aged care sector as a whole.”

Minister for Aged Care, Anika Wells, confirmed the 15 per cent pay increase last week, at a cost of $11.3 billion.

“Fair wages play a major role in attracting and retaining workers to provide around the clock care for some of Australia’s most vulnerable people,” she said.

Registered nurses, enrolled nurses, assistants in nursing, personal care workers, head chefs and cooks, recreational activities officers (lifestyle workers) and home care workers will see an increase to their award wages.

United Workers Union Aged Care Director, Carolyn Smith said the government had lived up to its promise to fund the 15 per cent pay rise, which would benefit hard-working aged care workers nationally.

“For too long, understaffed aged care workers have been on the front line providing care to some of Australia’s most vulnerable citizens, without proper recognition and on horrendously low pay,” Ms Smith said.

The Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation (ANMF) said they were concerned that some providers would not pass on the pay increase.

“While we’re pleased that the government has delivered on its promise to increase aged care wages, our big concern is that many nursing home operators won’t pass on the money intended for workers,” ANMF Federal Secretary Annie Butler said.

“We have good reason to be concerned about this because this is what has happened for the last 30 years when consecutive governments have given private aged care operators almost $2.5 billion, specifically to boost wages. There’s been a long history of lost wages and workers have been consistently let down.”

The two Gippsland aged care facilities run by Royal Freemasons in Sale and Moe have both been embroiled in controversy over recent years related to staffing and standards. The organisation said it had worked to improve this.

“Whilst Royal Freemasons is still experiencing some staffing issues across our regional homes, we have developed strong, clinical leadership teams, in particular at Moe and Sale which is resulting in significant improvements in our compliance ratings,” Mr Forgarty said.

“In January this year, our home in Sale was assessed by the Aged Care Quality & Safety Commission and was found to be fully compliant.”

Late last year, the provider said it would sell its aged care homes. This news came after a new funding model for residential aged care came into effect, which Royal Freemasons said it could not operate within.

“In October last year, Royal Freemasons announced the sale of some of our aged care and retirement living communities, further announcing in February that, pending approval from the Foreign Investment Review Board, ownership of two retirement living communities will transfer to Aveo around mid 2023,” Mr Forgarty said.

“Discussions also progress with a number of possible buyers in relation to some of our other facilities, however it is still too early to comment further on these. Royal Freemasons has also committed to retaining our Home Care division, and are exploring strategies and opportunities for growth of our in home services.”