NZNO's Blog

Teuila deserves more


Aged careTeuila (not her real name) arrives at work early for every shift. The tasks she performs during her shift are as varied as the residents she works with. She assists our elders in all their everyday routines as well as going the extra mile – sometimes dispensing medications, sometimes catheterising a resident, sometimes bearing the brunt of violence and aggression from a resident with dementia.

Not everyone can do a job like Teuila’s. It is a highly skilled and demanding role, with barely any recognition in the form of pay but much in the way of love and appreciation from the residents themselves.

When Teuila talks about the work she does, she talks about the pleasure she gains from helping an elderly person regain dignity and well-being, how great it is to build a relationship and see self esteem and quality of life maintained for a resident, how satisfying it is to be part of someone’s transition from anger and sadness to happiness and acceptance.

As a caregiver Teuila is amongst the lowest paid in the country and from April 1 this year, her job became a minimum wage job when the three largest aged care collective agreements in the country had their bottom step wiped out by an increase of the minimum wage to $14.25 an hour.

It is no accident that the most significant test of the equal pay legislation for many years has originated in aged care. You do not need to be a lawyer to see that the amazing people doing this work are being underpaid and exploited. You can work as a check out operator at a supermarket and be paid more.

What is really interesting is that after many years of crying poverty as a reason for not paying aged care workers more, but doing little about the situation, the Aged Care Association (ACA) and its members are standing up to a Government that has continued to significantly underfund the care of our elderly.

This week they refused to sign contracts with DHBs citing among other things, underfunding, and saying that the current funding levels were unrealistic to provide increases to hard working caregivers and maintain and improve the quality of life for those in care.

Such public action by members of the Aged Care Association is rare and if their figures are to be believed is a sign of the negative impact of continued Government underfunding.

What is disappointing is that the Aged Care Association has not asked the Government for funding increases to fairly pay aged care workers, but solely focussed on their own immediate costs and expect aged care to remain a minimum wage job.

The problem is that the ACA wants an increase in funding of 7.6 percent – but there is no way they are going to pass that 7.6 percent onto our members. They made it very clear that there would be no pay increases offered this year. Perhaps we would feel the love more if they asked for more funding, and for it to be earmarked for staff pay rises, retention and development.

Teuila deserves more – and so do the thousands of caregivers who do the important work of looking after our grandparents and mums and dads.

(The photograph is of caregivers from Aranui Home during Caregivers Week 2014)

7 thoughts on “Teuila deserves more

  1. The NZACA have been advocating for pay parity since 2005 well before the NZNO – who were only fixated on increasing public sector wages at the time (can anyone recall the NZNO advocating for private sector caregivers from 2003-2006?). As the NZNO know in the past when NZACA has achieved an increase of funding of 5% then we recommend members pass on 5%. We also have data to show that passing on funding increases has taken place for the last 7 years. In terms of this year, it is impossible for providers to pass on small funding increases of 1% in light of the cost increases from both government policies and aged care inflation. Providers will pass on a significant % increases if we received a 7.6% increase. Martin Taylor CEO, NZACA

  2. Martin, NZNO members have been working to improve the wages and conditions for many years. In fact the pay parity you refer too is only possible because NZNO ran a major campaign in DHBs called ‘Fair Pay’ resulting in significant wage increases for our members in that sector.

    A big part of that campaign was about addressing wage rates which did not reflect the skills, the knowledge and the work of our members who had wages depressed because most nurses are women.

    There are obvious parallels between that and the equal pay case.

    While we appreciate the ACA recommendations to it’s members to pass on percentage increases, that simply won’t be enough this year. The latest workforce data shows two thirds of aged care caregivers earn less than $30,000 a year. Your members need to take responsibility and provide work with a wage people can live on.

  3. Why is a caregiver catheterising patients?

  4. Come on NZNO and ACA tell Telulias story how aged care employment REALLY is! For some $14 per hour staff work hard and fast, they are subjected to abuse and violence as stated there is poo and urine on floors,beds and sometimes on the walls.Continence products are used,smelly,heavy with waste and staff are reminded frequently that these are expensive so don’t waste!!
    Vomit and spitting food and phlegm on to bedclothes,tables and carpets to name a few incidents AND for $ 14 odd dollars an hour !!

    Get onto it and pay these hardworking individuals a ‘living’ wage.

  5. Caregivers are expected to do everything that a Nurse should be doing for $14.25. All these Rest homes say they cannot afford to pay more which is a load of rubbish. They are all multi millionaires and most of them are just building more and more Resthomes instead of paying the staff more. The owners do not care. Most Rest home owners own 2 or 3 or more Resthomes and Hotels. All caregivers should go public and stuff our contracts its as meaningless as our pay anyway, time we expose the fake facade the owners of Rest homes run their businesses under.

  6. Some establishments allow/ promote double shifting ( not to be confused with a split shift) eg a night shift followed by an afternoon shift. Would be interesting to see audit figures on medication errors and incidents in workplaces that allow this practice. Staff do these shifts to earn a living wage,but is this not some form of abuse of employees and residents? Tiredness and stress will impact on standards of care!
    Caring for the frail and demented is not always a feel good, hand holding experience( that is often depicted in promotions of eldercare facilities) it is hard work for all staff, the careworkers, cooks,cleaners and the registered staff.

  7. Resthome owners have a cheek paying slave labour wages yet selling professional staff in ads, shame they dont promote the conditions for staff and what is expected of them, where are the auditors? Not surprising staff attitude is respectless as it equals the owners on staff it all goes hand in hand. We need Resthome in inspectors and take the owners tobthe cleaners

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