Aged care workers have taken their fight for higher wages to the Fair Work Commission as inflation continues to bite nationwide.
The Health Services Union, representing staff from personal care workers to catering and cleaning, is calling for a 25 per cent wage increase for staff in the sector.
“It is certainly a political issue now and the pandemic has exemplified these concerns,” HSU National President Gerard Hayes told AAP.
Entry-level personal care workers can be paid as little as $21.96 per hour, the union said.
The case before the commission, in its first day on Tuesday, seeks to lift wages by between $5.40 and $7.20 per hour, increasing average pay to about $29 per hour.
Mark Castieau, a chef with 20 years of experience at an aged-care facility, said many staff had left the industry because it was hard to make ends meet as well as the heavy workload during the pandemic.
“It’s a highly skilled job looking after vulnerable old people but we’re treated as menial workers,” he told AAP.
“We’re not recognised or valued for our work, we’re expendable”.
The sector is underfunded and more financial support for carers is needed, Mr Castieau said.
Mr Hayes said if society cared about the dignity of senior Australians then we needed to compensate those who care for them.
“It can’t be ‘out of sight, out of mind’, because the suffering (of older Australians) doesn’t go away”.
The Reserve Bank of Australia expects underlying inflation in the March quarter to be more than three per cent, with price hikes for essentials including fuel, food and housing hitting families hard.
Mr Hayes said a 25 per cent wage increase would cover rising living costs.
The legal fight comes off the back of thousands of health workers across the state walking off the job earlier this month to support demands for a 5.5 per cent wage increase.