The unions representing aged care workers have released a proposal to fix Australia’s struggling aged care system. Supporting the proposal, the Queensland Nursing and Midwifery Union has provided a link that enables you to send a letter directly to the PM calling for more staff and better training in aged care.

The proposal comes following reports that Queensland aged care providers had laid off staff during the COVID-19 pandemic, and the government had taken no action.

The QNMU says the removal of safe staffing laws in private aged care meant Queensland aged care providers have legally been allowed to cut nurses and other staff even when residents faced their most challenging time.

“These cuts could mean the difference between life and death, yet the Prime Minister and federal government have refused to take any action. This must change,” said QNMU Secretary Beth Mohle.

Four-point plan

The plan’s aim is “to fix our broken aged care system, protect workers who have been at the front line of the fight against the virus, and provide better quality care to older Australians”.

The unions involved are the Health Services Union, the Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation and United Workers Union, which represent aged care workers.

These workers perform “invaluable work in incredibly difficult conditions” and have been “let down by a government who has ignored critical issues in aged care”, a statement says.

The unions are calling for:

  • Mandated minimum staffing levels and required mix of skills and qualifications in every residential facility, over every shift.
  • Transparency and accountability for Government funding.
  • Mandated training requirements (including infection control and ongoing professional development) accessible to all staff and paid by employer.
  • Government funding is required to be increased, linked to the provision of care and the direct employment of permanent staff with decent pay and enough hours to live on.

ANMF Federal Secretary Annie Butler says the current aged care system is unsafe for both staff and residents.

“Long before the COVID-19 pandemic began, and as exposed by the Aged Care Royal Commission, chronic and widespread understaffing across the aged care system had created unsafe environments for both workers and those they cared for. 

“The pandemic has now revealed just how dangerous understaffing is, with tragic consequences for far too many older Australians and their families.” 

“Mandating minimum staffing levels must be an urgent priority… If that doesn’t happen, safe, quality care cannot be guaranteed and the pain and suffering of elderly Australians will go on,” she said.

Aged care relies on goodwill of women

HSU President, Gerard Hayes, said the aged care system is reliant on the “goodwill of a highly casualised and underpaid female-dominated workforce that often retire into poverty.” 

Carolyn Smith, aged care director, United Workers Union, said the stories from the front line of aged care are harrowing.

“Our members tell us every day they are forced to make the choice between completing their tasks or properly looking after those they care for.

“They tell us the system is so broken and so understaffed their timetables don’t allow them the simple humanity of pausing to have a chat with people as they prepare their shower.

“The pressures on aged care staff leaves our members demoralised and burnt out, and helps explain why Australia has one of the world’s worst staff retention rates in aged care.”

ACTU President, Michele O’Neil, the aged care system must go back to the drawing board.

“Privatisation is a failed experiment in aged care and has failed working people and the people they care for.”

Write to the prime minister

There are no federal government laws that require even one Registered Nurse (RN) to be on site at a private aged care facility at any time. The QNMU has repeatedly called for safe staffing laws to be introduced in private aged care over many years.

To send a letter to Mr Morrison calling for urgent change to protect elderly Australians, visit


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