Sunday, November 06, 2022

Pay increase of 15pc for 300,000 aged-care staff

More inflation! You will pay for this at your supermarket. There is no magic money tree to fund this and the Federal government has promised no new taxes. So there will in fact be a big tax -- on the money you spend on groceries etc. The Federal government will print money to pay for this wonderful new world and that will devalue all money, thus pushing up the price for everything. And the destruction of your savings will continue

Leftist governments have a compulsion to spend for good causes. But there is no end to good causes. This is a good cause but where are the cutbacks elsewhere to pay for it? There is not even the suggestion of it

More than 300,000 aged-care workers will get a pay rise of at least 15 per cent after the Fair Work Commission found their work had been historically ­undervalued and significant changes to the way they worked over the past 20 years justified the lift in wages.

The Albanese government immediately reaffirmed its commitment to fund the pay rise after the commission found an interim 15 per cent pay rise for aged-care nurses and workers in direct care roles was “‘plainly justified by work value reasons”.

The timing and phasing in of the pay rises is to be determined, and the commission did not rule out a further rise for direct care staff. It is also yet to rule on a union claim for a 25 per cent wage increase for administrative and support aged-care employees such as cleaning staff.

Aged care is one of the government’s biggest and fastest-growing spending programs, budgeted to cost $27bn this ­financial year and rising to ­nearly $35bn by 2025-26, even without incorporating the commis­sion wage decision.

A commission full bench, headed by president Iain Ross, said it was not suggesting the 15 per cent interim increase necessarily exhausted the level of pay rise for direct care workers, and whether any further increase was justified would be the subject of further submissions.

Aged-care workers covered by the interim award increase include those working in direct care roles in nursing homes and those providing in-home care.

About 210,000 workers are in direct care roles in residential aged-care centres, according to the most recent aged-care workforce census published last year, with another 124,000 providing in-home care services under government programs.

The full bench said it accepted the expert evidence that “as a general proposition, work in feminised industries, including care work, has been historically undervalued and that the reason for that undervaluation is likely to be gender based”.

“It is common ground ­between the parties that the work undertaken by registered nurses, enrolled nurses and Certificate III personal care workers in residential aged care has changed significantly in the past two decades such as to justify an increase in minimum wages for these classifications,” the full bench said.

“We also recognise that there is ample evidence that the needs of those being cared for in their homes have significantly increased in terms of clinical complexity, frailty and cognitive and mental health. In respect of direct care workers … the existing minimum rates do not properly compensate employees for the value of the work performed.”

While the evidence relating to support and administrative employees was not as clear and more submissions were needed, “we see no reason to delay an increase in minimum wages for direct care workers while that … takes place.”

The government confirmed it would fund the interim increase in line with its election commitment, saying better pay for aged-care workers was a critical step to attract and retain the numbers of staff required for the growing cohort of older Australians.

“Aged care is hard work, but it’s undervalued work,” Employment and Workplace Relations Minister Tony Burke said.

“This result is the first step in changing that.”

The Health Services Union welcomed the 15 per cent interim pay rise but said a “larger and broader increase is needed to stem the industry’s crisis”.

“This is a reasonable start but we need the commission to go further and permanently end the poverty wage settings that dominate aged care,” HSU national president Gerard Hayes said.

“Fifteen per cent is a down payment but nobody should be mistaken. This will not fix the crisis. We still have massive unfinished business in aged care.”

Aged-care providers welcomed the decision as a “substantial pay rise” but said key aged-care staff were not covered.

“We note the decision does not cover staff not involved in ­direct care such as kitchen, laundry, recreation activities and administrative staff, and we look forward to a further decision by the commission which addresses their pay,” Aged & Community Care Providers Association chief executive Tom Symondson said.

Analysis by the Grattan Institute said aged-care wages would rise by around $3bn a year if the 25 per cent increase was implemented this year for all workers under the claim.

The commission said it was “not persuaded that varying the relevant awards to give effect to the interim increase … will have any material effect on the national economy”.


Income rules a barrier to Australian pensioners filling skills gaps, advocates say

Retirement was going well for Henry Gasior.

After a long career in the aviation industry, the pensioner was enjoying volunteering and helping out at his local food bank in Bacchus Marsh, about 40 kilometres out of Melbourne.

Then, a year and a half ago, the 76-year-old did something he never saw coming: he went back to work. "I had to supplement my pension," he said.

"The bills kept on coming in, [and not] just gas bills or electricity bills. I had to dip into my superannuation: large amounts on about three different occasions."

Mr Gasior now works as a personal care worker, providing assistance for older Australians living at home.

He works about 12 to 15 hours a week, earning anywhere from $670 to $840 a fortnight. That's well over what he's allowed to earn before his pension payments are reduced.

Currently, those on the Age Pension are allowed to earn a "Work Bonus" of $300 a fortnight for a single person, or $320 a fortnight for a couple. For every dollar earned above that amount, pension payments are reduced by 50 cents on every dollar.

It means the more hours Mr Gasior works, the more his pension shrinks. And because he's married, his wife's pension is also reduced. "It would be a big, big help if they increased the threshold," he said.

In this year's federal budget, the government announced plans to do just that.

The Work Bonus will be increased from December 1, taking it from $7,800 a year to $11,800 for this financial year. But the measure will expire on July 1.

Advocates and industry groups say the move is a step in the right direction — but likely not enough to entice more pensioners into the workforce.

The latest statistics show a huge demand for more workers, particularly in the field of health care and social assistance. The sector has an older workforce and had 74,000 job vacancies nationwide in August.

Despite the moves in the budget, National Seniors chief advocate Ian Henschke said the government had not addressed one of the key barriers when it came to pensioners working: the prospect of interacting with Centrelink.

He said the government needed to make the system "simpler, more understandable and fairer" — and to make the move permanent.

"We've got fewer than 80,000 pensioners [working] in Australia when we've got a pensioner population of 2.25 million," he said. "When you've only got less than 3 per cent of your pensioners doing work, it's not because they don't want to work. We believe [Centrelink] is the big barrier."

Tapping the 'grey economy'

Aged care is one sector of the economy that could benefit from pensioners re-entering the workforce, according to the experts. The latest workforce census revealed 45 per cent of personal care workers were over the age of 50.

For in-home care providers, there is a huge demand for older workers, with advocates saying clients feel more comfortable with care workers closer to their own age.

"This 'grey economy', what [we] need to do is [tap into] that market," said Georgia Downes, the chief operating officer of aged care provider Home Instead. "At the moment, we are in dire need of more caregivers. [In our business] we would love to take on up to 1,000 to 1,200 more."

She believed the system was too complicated and the amounts pensioners were allowed to earn too low -- even with the one-time boost provided in the budget.

"We've got caregivers that are currently turning down shifts, although they need the money, and they'd like the work," she said. "They're turning down shifts because they're scared of affecting their pension."

In a statement, Social Services Minister Amanda Rishworth said the boost to the Work Bonus in December would have a positive impact.

"This measure not only incentivises pensioners to work and boosts the supply of labour to meet workplace shortages, but it also gives pensioners the opportunity to work flexibly," Ms Rishworth said.

"All aged pensioners [will] receive the up-front $4,000 income credit and will be able to work and earn more before their aged pension is reduced. It's a simple measure that provides certainty — pensioners know exactly what they are getting up-front and how much they can earn."


Queensland schools data reveals private school enrolments growing

As private schools go from strength to strength, Queensland state school enrolment numbers are crashing due to the low birth rate in 2017, homeschool popularity and interstate migration.

Samford Valley Steiner School, an independent school offering Prep-Year 12, has experienced significant growth, so much so they have this year opened six new classrooms.

“We are growing the school from the bottom up,” enrolments manager Joan Weir said.

“I’ve seen the migration trends (with the school’s enrolments), particularly out of Victoria.”

From 2018-2020, state school enrolments increased on average 10,000 ayear. But this growth slowed in 2021 and decreased by almost 4000 in 2022.

From 2018-2022, secondary enrolments have continued to increase, but primary enrolments have shrunk since 2019, with the decline becoming sharper every year.

Education Minister Grace Grace said Covid-related international and state border closures in place until the end of 2021 created a lag in new enrolments.

“We have also seen a rise in home schooling as some families chose to keep vulnerable children at home during a health pandemic,” she said.

“There were also one-off factors like the fact that back in 2017 Queensland had a lower birthrate than usual, which has flowed through now in lower numbers starting prep in 2022.”

Independent school enrolments climbed by 4.8 per cent in 2020-21, which was a 10-year high, and followed this up with a 4.1 per cent jump in 2021-22.

Independent Schools Queensland chief executive Chris Mountford said enrolments were at all-time high across the sector.

“A key factor in this growth over recent years is the increase in in-migration to the sector throughout the pandemic. This could be students coming from interstate, overseas, or the state or catholic sectors,” he said.

“From 2019–2022, net in-migration enrolments at Queensland independent schools jumped, on average, about 50 per cent to 4350 students.”

The Catholic sector enjoyed consistent growth in the past five years, boosting enrolment numbers by more than 10,000 in total, at a yearly average of 1.2 per cent.

“Nine new Catholic schools have opened in Queensland since 2018 to meet the demand in high-growth areas,” Queensland Catholic Education Commission executive director Dr Lee-Anne Perry said.

“These schools have been in high demand with initial enrolments exceeding expectations and, in some cases, requiring additional classes to be offered.”

From 2018-2022, the number of state schools in Queensland grew from 1240 to 1258.

The state government plans to build 11 new state schools in 2023-24 – including five in Ipswich, three in Logan, one on the Sunshine Coast and one in Redland City.


Dwayne Johnstone murder trial jury told officer acted lawfully when he shot shackled Indigenous man

A jury has been told a NSW Corrections officer was acting lawfully when he shot and killed a shackled Indigenous man outside the Lismore Base Hospital.

The accused man, who is referred to as Officer A for legal reasons, is standing trial for the murder of 43-year-old Dwayne Johnstone on the evening of March 15, 2019.

He has pleaded not guilty to the charge.

The court has heard Mr Johnstone was handcuffed and had restraints on his ankles at the time.

The jury heard the officer fired three shots as Mr Johnstone tried to flee, and twice shouted out "stop or I'll shoot".

The third shot hit Mr Johnstone in the back and he died in hospital a short time later.

Defence barrister Philip Strickland SC told the court on Monday the regulations surrounding when a Corrections officer could discharge a firearm were clear.

"A correctional officer may discharge a firearm if the officer believes on reasonable grounds that it is necessary to do so in order to prevent the escape of an inmate," he said.

"You may agree with this law or you may disagree with it, you may think it gives officers too much power, but I urge you if you do think that then disregard it. "It doesn't matter if you like the law or you don't like the law."

The defence barrister told the court the drama played out over the course of 11 or 12 seconds. ''He had to make, in a few seconds, a decision of momentous consequence," Mr Strickland said.

The court was told Mr Johnstone was "desperate to escape" and a nurse at the Lismore Base Hospital thought he was overheard offering someone "10 grand if you help me get away".

The court was told the nurse did not alert authorities because they were unsure if they had heard correctly.

Crown prosecutor Ken McKay has argued Mr Johnstone posed no risk to any person and Officer A had no lawful excuse to shoot him. "What you have here is an unarmed offender, in restraints, not posing an immediate threat to anyone," he said.

Mr McKay told the jury corrections officers were trained to make split-second decisions, to always seek a peaceful outcome and to use a firearm as a last resort. "A firearm is the most lethal weapon in the Corrective Services armoury because it has the potential to kill," Mr McKay said.

"You would have no reasonable doubt that the accused intended to inflict really serious bodily harm on the deceased."

The trial continues next week.




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