Various settlement negotiations have earned support workers better conditions in recent years. These include pay for travel time and petrol, guaranteed hours of work, and increases to pay rates as a result of the Care and Support Worker Pay Equity Settlement.
However, home support worker Jenny Stewart says the changes haven’t “gelled” and workers are getting fed up.
“Yes, we got equal pay, in-between travel and guaranteed hours, but it hasn’t gelled, and we’ve got a lot of grievances.
“You get 50 cents a kilometre to cover the cost of fuel and vehicle costs, but with prices so high we can’t afford that. People are leaving because their incomes aren’t reliable, and the costs and risks involved for us just keep growing.
“What gets us big time is that we’re subsidising a government-funded service and it’s not fair that we’re paying that out of our own pockets.”
E tū echoes this sentiment and says many home support workers are quitting their jobs as a result of soaring petrol prices, precarious working hours, and poor working conditions.
The union warns that the country’s ageing population will suffer, and the cost of their care could sky-rocket, if the government doesn’t resolve support workers’ grievances and improve the quality of their jobs so care at home is viable for everyone.
E tū Home Support Coordinator Kirsty McCully says more needs to be done to improve working conditions for home support workers.
“A lot of people aren’t getting guaranteed hours, which employers are supposed to provide, or their guaranteed hours are being regularly cut, so their work is still precarious. And payments for petrol and travel time are grossly inadequate,” she says.
The Home and Community Health Association (HCHA) agrees the recent increases in petrol prices is undoubtedly having an adverse impact on the travel costs of support workers.
Acting Chief Executive Officer Graeme Titcombe clarifies how the rate is paid and funded to organisations, according to the Home and Community Support (Payment for Travel Between Clients) Settlement Act 2016.
“Under this Act the Minister of Finance must review the amounts paid every 12 months as from 30 May 2017 and decide whether to recommend the making of an order to adjust the payment levels. Current rates are based on $0.50 per km, but paid on a basis of an average distance travelled by a support worker per trip (with actual km’s paid at $0.50 for exceptional travel) – no increase has been provided to date for 2018.”
With regards to guaranteed hours and working conditions, Titcombe says guaranteed hours are negotiated between employers and employees.
“However it is true to say that currently expectations between individual employees and their employers, in regard to hours that can be guaranteed, may differ widely in an industry with an ever changing client base requiring services at changing hours.”
Home support worker Jenny Stewart believes it needs to be sorted out – and soon. She says the demand for home support services is set to soar over the coming years, and it’s time to consider how to provide proper jobs which attract and retain skilled carers.
“Everyone has to make sure these jobs become regular, decent jobs where someone goes in to work, does the job, and can rely on the pay they get. I know there are challenges, but people have to come up with a solution.
“Because if it’s not sorted out, there won’t be anyone to provide that care.”