Aged care worker growth wait and see after migrant deal
It is still too early to predict how many new aged care workers will be added to the sector following a new priority agreement for migrant workers, the federal government says.
Under an aged care labour agreement, skilled migrants would gain access to priority visa processing along with a two-year pathway to permanent residency as an incentive for new aged staff.
While the first aged care facility in Perth signed on to the scheme, which will net 570 workers in the next five years, Aged Care Minister Anika Wells has admitted it was too soon yet to determine how many new staff would come to the industry nationwide.
"It's far too early for us to try and predict how many workers it will yield. We just know this is the number one thing that providers have been asking us to do," she told ABC Radio on Tuesday.
"It's taken collaboration, not just across the providers, the unions and the workers who seek to address workforce shortages in aged care but across different portfolios of government."
The agreement was part of a broader $36b push by the government to help the aged care sector meet new requirements, which included $11.3b for a 15 per cent pay rise.
The minister said providers would be required to report whether they had passed the wage increases on in full, following a ruling from the Fair Work Commission.
United Workers Union aged care director Carolyn Smith said the pay rise for staff should be non-negotiable and the amount should not be used to prop up the bottom line of providers
"The federal government has made it clear providers have to pass the full 15 per cent pay rise to eligible aged care workers, with no ifs or buts," she said.
"Providers have a very clear obligation to pass on the pay rise, which should flow to workers whether they are on the award or on enterprise agreements."
Ms Wells said work was ongoing to fill staff shortages within aged care, which is predicted to expand to almost 40,000 workers in 2024/25.
She said large amounts of reform was still needed in the sector.
"We do need to allow time for that to wash through, that will address workforce shortages," she said.
"We have been pulling all the levers as quickly as humanly possible."
Among those was new laws requiring all aged care facilities to have nurses on-call 24/7, which will kick in from July 1.
While Ms Wells conceded not all facilities would have an around the clock nurse on site by then, most would
"The vast majority of homes have lifted to ... what the royal commission has asked us to do," she said.
"We are now working with that remaining percentage of providers who, mostly due to workforce shortages, will not get there in time."