Aged care workers have taken their fight for higher wages to the Fair Work Commission as inflation continues to bite nationwide.
The Health Services Union, representing staff from personal care workers to catering and cleaning, is calling for a 25 per cent wage increase for staff in the sector.
“It is certainly a political issue now and the pandemic has exemplified these concerns,” HSU National President Gerard Hayes told AAP.
Entry-level personal care workers can be paid as little as $21.96 per hour, the union said.
The case before the commission, in its first day on Tuesday, seeks to lift wages by between $5.40 and $7.20 per hour, increasing average pay to about $29 per hour.
“Aged care workers have endured horrendous working conditions over the last five years,” Mr Hayes said.
The sector is underfunded and more financial support for carers is needed, he said.
“If we as a society do care about the dignity of senior Australians then we need to compensate those who care for them,” Mr Hayes said.
“It can’t be ‘out of sight, out of mind’ … because the suffering (of older Australians) doesn’t go away”.
The Reserve Bank of Australia expects underlying inflation in the March quarter to be more than three per cent, with price hikes for essentials including fuel, food and housing hitting families hard.
Mr Hayes said the 25 per cent increase would cover rising living costs, with the aged care workforce carrying the “cost of a callous, tight-fisted government that simply doesn’t care”.
The union referred to the Aged Care Royal Commission’s interim report Neglect, which noted the sector’s workforce was “undervalued, understaffed and under-resourced”.
The legal fight comes off the back of thousands of health workers across the state walking off the job earlier this month to support demands for a 5.5 per cent wage increase.