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National's Aged Care Policy Won't Fix the Pay

9 September 2005

National's Aged Care Policy Won't Fix the Pay Problems

The money National has promised for the struggling aged care sector is a drop in the bucket and there is no guarantee any of it would find its way into nurses' and caregivers' pay packets, said the New Zealand Nurses Organisation today.

"The $35million National is promising to put into residential care is less than a tenth of what it would take to close the pay gap between nurses and caregivers working in aged care hospitals and those in public hospitals," said NZNO aged care coordinator Cee Payne-Harker.

"Not only that, there is absolutely no guarantee that any of the money would be passed on to the workforce."

Cee Payne-Harker said the money National was touting as a solution to the pay gap in aged care represents for the aged care sector about 2% per year of what is required. The pay gap is currently as big as 50% compared to public sector pay.

Cee Payne-Harker said the funding issues in aged care started in the 1990s when the then National government under funded the sector and the introduction of the Employment Contracts Act devastated pay and conditions of the workforce.

"If we go back to workplace law similar to the ECA as National is also promising, there will be no way that this workforce can negotiate fair pay and conditions, as their counterparts in the public sector have done with the support of the Employment Relations Act," she said.

"This money would go to private entrepreneurs, who set their own business priorities."

Cee Payne-Harker said workers in aged care needed the support of strong industrial law to bargain collectively for pay levels in the aged care industry matching those in public hospitals.

"While Labour hasn't done enough to turn back the clock to pre-1990, funding for the sector has increased by $131 million over the past two years and, under the Employment Relations Act, workers have the right to organise in unions and bargain collectively," said Cee Payne-Harker.

ENDS

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