NZNO's Blog

Caregivers, we’re worth it!


Tammie Bunt is a caregiver who wants all her colleagues to know they are worth $26 an hour. She says it’s about time we know our worth and get it.

Film-Colour-162Here in Aotearoa New Zealand, our population is aging, and that means a greater need for caregivers, health care assistants and nurses in both the residential and home-based aged care sector.

The women (and it mostly is women) who look after our elders in the aged care sector are devalued and underpaid, and it’s been that way forever. Because they are women, and “women’s work” has traditionally been seen by society as somehow worth less than men’s. Ridiculous, right!?

Talking to many caregivers and health care assistants and they will tell you they don’t come in to the industry for money. People get into it because they are caring and compassionate people who want to make a difference in people’s lives. It doesn’t mean they should be paid less!

Today it appears the average qualification in caregiving is only worth about 10 cents depending on who you’re working for. Most caregivers are earning the minimum wage or just above it, even after they have done their aged care qualifications.

In 2012 Kristine Bartlett stepped up in a way no one else had in the industry. She’s a caregiver with over 20 years’ experience and she’s still only earning just above the minimum wage. Kristine and her union, the Service and Food Workers Union (now E tū) took on the big guns to do something about valuing caregivers and the role they play in the community. She believes we should be recognised financially, that the thanks we get is lovely but not enough.

NZNO joined the case too and one of the discussions they had was about how much caregivers should get paid. Comparisons have been made to other male dominated professions and how the Equal Pay Act isn’t working the way it was intended. There were articles stating caregivers were worth $26 an hour. I think that’s fair but many of my colleagues cannot believe they are worth $26 – it seems like so much money!

74464_494373352974_569252974_6879867_8118614_nWe are worth that! Why are we saying to ourselves that we aren’t? Think about it…

  • We gently listen to everything a person wants to say as their last hours take hold. We hold the hand of a person whose last breath is only seconds away.
  • We help our residents find some purpose to get through today… whether it’s via an activity or simply just getting out of bed to face the day.
  • We make sure each person has clean clothing on and that they are appropriately dressed. We assist them with their continence needs.
  • We are warriors for their safety by making sure they are safe in their surroundings.
  • We’re highly qualified.
  • And also, we give up many of our weekends for our residents. We miss our kids’ sporting events, family birthdays and other social events because our clients’ needs are not 4 hours a day. They need us 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year.

I am relatively new in the industry and was somewhat dumped into the job due to personal circumstances two years ago. I came from a market research background and was paid well better there, sitting in front of a computer using a virtual program with only buttons to click. I then went into the cleaning business and ended up on far more for that than I am in my current position. My shock at how undervalued people who work in the aged care sector is was flabbergasting!

We have heard all the excuses, from the Government and the big names in the aged care industry, “We don’t get enough funding”, “We don’t get a lot of return from aged care”, “We can’t afford it” and on and on… It’s time for the excuses to stop and the action to happen.

I think the Government needs to get on with it!

And the other thing that needs to happen starts with us.

We do an important job, we have qualifications, we love and care for our clients and we are worth $26 an hour! Believe it sisters.

8 thoughts on “Caregivers, we’re worth it!

  1. Couldnt agree more!

    I have 17 years in this business and when I started my rate was $9.60 an hour. Today I still havent doubled that amount after 17 years. The only thing that gives me enough to live on is the penal rates on the weekends.
    If I want a weekend off, I have to apply for leave. Our business is NOT family or life friendly. We all work more hours than we are contracted for, we all go that extra mile for our patients/residents/clients. ll because we CARE!
    When my daughter started at Coffee Culture after leaving school, she started on more than I earn today and quickly climbed to a higher rate.
    Where is the fairness of pay in that?
    I look after the aged, the sick and the dying and yet a barista can earn more than me.
    Our pay rates absolutely suck. The owners of the care homes and facilities charge their residents like a wounded bull and makes 100’s thousands of dollars in profit. Time they paid up to the people who actually make their businesses what they are today.

  2. I do beleave im worth 26 dollars an hour why because iv been doing this job for over 25 years i love what i do making a differance in someones life weather there elderly or disabled learning difficuities mential health young or old and hopefully by the time it comes for me to be cared for i hope carers community work nurses health carers get notices for what they do

  3. I love my job, it’s difficult , back breaking, and so busy, but so rewarding, the elderly deserve all our respect, and patience. We deserve $26.00 aswe are carers, washer women, we look after their rooms, clothes and the clients.Sometimes we are abused, hit and the residents can be very difficult at times, but most of the times they’re delightful.The elderly coming into the resthomes are older , moresicker, and often more demented, but we have to cope, as it is part of the job.

  4. Does that apply to the caregivers benefit cos its pretty rubbish really

  5. Been doing the job for 27 years and I have just got a payrise to 16 I all so have to do wondcares and give out meds Witch include heavy drugs we are worth evey penny of the $26 I am going hungry becuse I need more money to live and so I can feed my 17th old we all have bills to pay

  6. When RNS starting rate is around $26 with dhb’s and an EN is $22 a pay system of fairness for care givers in aged care needs to be developed. It should relate to qualifications. I 100 % agree caregivers deserve more than minimum wage, perhaps level 4, $19 starting rate and level 3 $18.
    If care givers are to be paid $26 where does the RNS and ENS starting rate start. It won’t happen, because many resthomes could not afford it and would close.
    I have been a care giver for nearly 30 yrs. I am now level 5 (EN).

  7. I started working for Aged Care thirteen years ago at a rate of $10.50 I believe we as Healthcare Care Assistance are worth $26.00 my rate has gradually increase but all through being pushed to completing Unit Standard e.g for the requirement of our jobs. at times we have had other situation to attend to for the Elderly which I believe we as HCA’s do well to make it work for the Elderly.

    E.G. Staff shortage We are also an Advocate, Counselors everything all writers have said.

    So hopefully this can be turn around with alot more consideration of the mahi carried out by all who work in Ages Care.

  8. We’ve seen how caregivers worked to such great level and getting what they deserve is so worth it although it may have been a struggle for some carers to avail. And yes, quoting the article: “…the Government needs to get on with it!” and it must happen asap. We have full respect to colleagues who are providing utmost cares to elders.

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