Fixing the Productivity Commission’s draft report Part 1: Closing the wage gap

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The Australian Nursing Federation has been given the opportunity to present its final submission on the Caring for Older Australians, Productivity Commission Draft Report.

The Australian Nursing Federation broadly supports many of the recommendations in the draft report, and this submission provides our feedback on those issues, as well as recommendations in 10 key areas, the first three being:

  1. Providing an industrial mechanism to fix the wages gap (which will assist with recruitment and retention of workers to this industry); and boost levels of service delivery;
  2. The implementation of a skills mix and staffing level tool (including a preamble on why the need for nursing in aged care);
  3. A national system of licencing of assistants in nursing in aged care, ensuring the protection of residents and consumers; and seven others.
ANF Federal Secretary Lee Thomas and ANF Assistant Federal Secretary Yvonne Chaperon speaking with the media out the front of the Productivity Commission hearing.

When the draft report came out one of the major flaws was the scant regard to competitive wages. Wage disparity has led to a staffing crisis. Ignoring this issue means the problem of attracting nurses and assistants in nursing to aged care will continue long into the future.

How to close the wages gap


The ANF believes that the Productivity Commission draft report recognises the issues associated with the adequacy of the aged care workforce and the levels of pay and working conditions. However it fails to set out any clear direction on how to remedy this problem in the near future.

ANF believes that the provision of competitive wages needs to be made available by way of a transparent and enforceable industrial instrument.

“The wages gap for all occupations in aged care, whether residential or community is significant. That is obviously not only an issue of fairness and equity for those who work in this incredibly important sector, but it’s also an issue of being able to recruit and retain the adequately trained workers we need to provide the quality care that we expect older Australians to receive.
Continuity of care, fairness and the capacity to recruit and retain an adequate workforce are all wound up very clearly with this question of wages,”
Hon. Mark Butler MP, Minister for Ageing said

ANF recommends industrial mechanism to fix the wages gap.

The ANF supports a pricing and funding structure that allows aged care employers to compete for labour for nurses and other care staff.

An ability to offer and maintain remuneration levels is fundamental to competing in the labour market. Competitive wages would assist in the recruitment and retention of staff thereby providing for a more stable and committed workforce, a workforce which could better collaborate with providers in support of changes that would enhance the efficiency and effectiveness of the sector.

ANF views competitive wages as wages comparable to those payable to similar workers in the public and private hospitals sectors.

The ANF proposes that the industry confer to develop a national industrial framework which would commit the parties to support industry wide efficiencies and other changes that would improve resident care and service delivery.

The national industrial framework would specify the wages to be paid to nurses and other care staff with such wage rates to be expressed in enterprise agreements between providers, nurses and care staff.

What do you think of the recommendations?

In next weeks blog we will discuss ANF recommendations for the implementation of a skills mix and staffing level tool.

Image credit: Australian Nursing Federation.

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