Major union takes on huge case of underpaid staff in aged care business

Employer accused of failing to pay staff for weekend work

Major union takes on huge case of underpaid staff in aged care business

One of the biggest aged care unions in the country has recently filed a legal action in the Federal Court against an aged care operator, arguing that the employer had underpaid its staff, among others.

The said action is based on Catering Industries’ failure to pay penalty rates to its employees during the weekends. The Health Services Union (HSU) reportedly filed a “precedent-setting” move against the employer, which aims to prevent it from “engaging catering staff under the hospitality award while working in an aged care facility,” reported.

According to records, the action highlights the employer’s staff at its Port Botany aged facility, who have been asserting their right to bargain under the Aged Care Award. However, the dispute arose when the employer refused to accommodate the staff’s demands.

“We saw through the Royal Commission just how important food is, with residents in some facilities being served jelly and frankfurts,” HSU National President Gerard Hayes said in a report.

“The endless splintering of the workforce undermines the bargaining position of all aged care staff and keeps wages rock bottom,” Hayes said.

When the employer’s staff rates are compared to the national standards, its base rate of pay is lower under the hospitality award and weekend penalty rates are 25 percent higher under the aged care award, reported.

“A full-time cook who has worked in aged care for 13 years will be around $4200 a year worse off in wages. While a full-time supervisor managing an aged care kitchen working the same shifts is $3175 worse off. This is before either of them have done any overtime or worked a public holiday,” the report said.

“Some catering companies might argue they have seasonal or event-based work. But the nutrition needs of our elderly do not stop and start. They require constant attention,” Hayes said.

“You can’t carve out catering or cleaning from care and health, the same employer should be responsible for the vast bulk of the aged care effort,” Hayes added.

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