Aged care’s moment of truth
Scott Morrison’s Australia is not going to be a good place to grow old if the crisis in aged care and the threats to superannuation continue.
For more than two decades the NSWNMA and the ANMF have been forthright in highlighting how dangerous understaffing in the sector had become.
We warned politicians and the community what the tragic consequences would be for many older Australians and their families.
Despite numerous inquiries and commissions, reports and research, discussions, conversations, media campaigns and desperate testimonies from our members, nothing has ever been done to make the necessary changes to prevent the suffering and neglect of elderly Australians in our nursing homes.
The pandemic has blown up all the weak, dishonest and self-serving excuses for inaction. It has put front and centre the stark reality that the first priority of the sector must be the safety and care of residents.
It should not have taken a deadly virus to tell society this obvious fact.
For too many politicians and too many providers the priority has been money and profit which has led to cost cutting at the expense of care and safety.
The distorted priorities of the sector have been eloquently described by the thinktank Per Capita: “The need to ensure high quality care is fundamentally at odds with the imperative to make a profit from a privatised system of care for vulnerable people.”
The COVID crisis is aged care’s moment of truth. It is also a moment of opportunity to reinvent the sector and reset the priorities around safety and care instead of pretending that aged care facilities are merely a lifestyle choice.
The NSWNMA and the ANMF have worked tirelessly to create an alternative vision for the sector.
The ACTU and other unions working in aged care – the HSU and United Workers Union – have now joined us to launch a comprehensive plan to fix our broken aged care system.
The unions are united in calling for the following changes:
- Mandated minimum staffing levels and required mix of skills and qualifications in every residential facility, over every shift
- Transparency and accountability for government funding
- Mandated training requirements (including infection control and ongoing professional development) accessible to all staff and paid for by the employer
- Government funding is required to be increased, linked to the provision of care and the direct employment of permanent staff with decent pay and enough hours to live on.
The Morrison government can no longer just look away. It must accept and meet its responsibilities to residents, families and staff.
Our members on the frontline in aged care know that having appropriate levels of registered nurses and care workers in the right skills mix is the key to safe care for residents.
Mandated minimum staffing levels must be the government’s urgent priority.
We have to repel the attacks on super
We cannot allow the Morrison government to use the cover of the coronavirus to ruin workers’ retirements.
Moves are well afoot by the government to renege on its election promise to raise the super guarantee from 9.5 per cent to 12 per cent by 2025 starting with an initial increase to 10 per cent next year.
The increase to workers’ super is already enshrined in law and failing to implement it would be a major betrayal.
Even before the COVID crisis the superannuation guarantee rate was not enough to deliver dignity in retirement for all workers.
This was particularly true for many women who retire into poverty with just over half the superannuation of men.
The government says the increase is unaffordable and that an increase in super would impact negatively on future wages. An army of experts has rubbished this argument.
The union movement is proud of its role in the creation of industry super and we will defend our world-class system that gives some dignity to workers in retirement.