Hundreds of Perth aged care workers have walked off the job as part of an “historic” nationwide industrial action movement, hoping that this Federal election will bring an overhaul of the sector.
The United Workers Union held a rally with the striking workers outside the State Library of WA on Tuesday afternoon – demanding a legally-binding minimum ratio of workers to residents inside aged care homes and a wage increase for the sector.
UWU Aged Care Director Carolyn Smith said workers were leaving the industry in unprecedented numbers because of the neglect by the sector’s for-profit providers and the Federal Government.
“There is no legal minimum staffing level inside aged care, which is shocking,” Ms Smith said.
“We hear heartbreaking stories from workers, (such as) four workers looking after 30, 40 or 50 residents. . . it means they can not give the quality of care to residents they deserve.”
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Aged care workers told The West Australian during Monday’s rally they feared people would die inside homes if there was no reform to the industry.
Twenty-year industry veteran Fadiela Van Boomen said there was “no longer dignity in aged care” following a decline in care over the past decade.
“How can I live with myself seeing that and knowing that’s not right and I come to work the next day thinking we can fix it,” Ms Van Boomen said. “But we can’t, because we are short staffed again.
“There’s got to be change, those people (in aged care homes) have got families, they’ve got to speak up get, they come in and see what is happening, it is not right. “I go home and my heart is hurting, it is not right, it is inhumane.”
Ms Smith said Tuesday’s industrial action was “historic”, as workers walked off the job in WA, South Australia and Queensland, in the sector’s first nationally coordinated strike.
“When aged care workers in some of Australia’s largest aged care providers employing 10,000 people walk off the job today they are doing so because they feel they have no option but to take strike action,” Ms Smith said..
“Aged care workers have been pushed to do double and triple shifts, facing dire conditions in PPE and no let up in sight in many facilities.
“But Covid was just the latest burden in an aged care system already in crisis.
“Aged care workers report aged care residents are frustrated, upset and humiliated as they wait too long to be showered, too long for soiled pads to be changed and too long, sometimes, even to be fed.
“All this while aged care workers earn some of the lowest wages in Australia.”