Hi my name is Kerri Anderson. I am a personal care worker in aged care facility in Queensland. I am also an LHMU delegate. Six months ago, I lodged our application for Low Paid Bargaining at Fair Work Australia in Sydney.
Now that the hearing has finally started, I will be reporting from the court for the next few days.
After arriving at Fair Work Australia, I did some radio interviews for ABC and 2 GB. As the case focuses on the aged care sector it's great that as an age worker working in the sector on a daily basis I can get my point across. I was really nervous doing it, it's not every day you speak to a reporter and have cameras and microphones shoved in your face! But I got through my nerves!
I made the point that we're not trying to damage providers but that we think the government should fund aged care wages.
Once I had finished the interviews, we went into the court room. When you go in and when you leave the court room, you have to bow to the 3 judges present. So for the next few hours both LHMU and the employers laid out their case.
The first witness was Sue Lines, assistant national secretary of LHMU. They spent a lot of time questioning Sue about her knowledge of the aged care sector. This went on for a couple of hours. What made me really angry was when one barrister for the employers kept focusing on the word professional. She kept saying that we shouldn't be considered a 'profession' - that we are, in her words, 'blue collar workers'.
Most aged care workers are at the least, cert III qualified. That would include infection control, dispensing medication and dealing with dementia. I find it insulting that this barrister doesn't think were professional. If someone who is dispensing medicine can't be considered professional, who can?
The union, in their efforts to get the case off the ground commissioned a survey of community perceptions of low pay. They tried to infer that because it was commissioned by the union that the union had a say in the results.
The employers kept using the figures $19.90 as indicative of what the average wage is. This is not the case in my experience of the vast majority of aged care workers.
I will have another update tomorrow and would love to hear from othwer aged care members about what they think of the case.