(Australian Associated Press)
Aged care workers are subjected to an alarming rate of violence in the workplace and could earn more as supermarket checkout operators, a royal commission has been told.
Unions and industry peak bodies say aged care workers are undervalued, while inadequate staffing levels in aged care facilities mean they are also overworked.
Personal carers and other aged care staff believe they are stuck with incredibly low rates of pay, Health Workers Union representative Lisa Alcock told the aged care royal commission on Wednesday.
“The two most critical pieces of feedback that we receive from members on a daily basis is the alarming rate of occupational violence and that is just something you have to accept when you work in aged care,” she said.
“The second is that the incredibly low rate of pay is something that you have to similarly accept.
“It’s hard to accept because I feel that you can’t have a high quality of care if you have workers working poor and working them into poverty essentially.”
Under the aged care modern award, minimum rates of pay for a full-time carers range from $20 to $25 an hour
Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation representative Paul Gilbert said personal carers notice supermarket jobs advertised with an hourly rate of $24-26.
“The comment I hear is ‘I could get paid more working on the checkout of Aldi’ and it’s technically true,” Mr Gilbert said.
He said carers questioned why a job they dedicated themselves to was viewed as less worthy than a checkout operator.
Ms Alcock said one woman told her about paying someone $150 an hour to clean her home’s gutters.
“She was only paid $21 to clean a person, and everything that goes with that, to provide dignity and care and support to that person,” she said.
“That’s not fair.”
Australia has about 366,000 aged care workers, although there has been a decline in the proportion of nurses and a corresponding increase in personal care attendants.