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Aged care workers in catering, cleaning, laundry and maintenance are today calling on the Fair Work Commission to recognise their hidden role in providing quality aged care.

United Workers Union today lodged a submission with the Fair Work Commission stating that support workers in aged care should receive the same 15 per cent pay correction awarded to other aged care workers nationally.

“Support workers are the foundation of quality care for aged care residents,” Carolyn Smith, Aged Care Director, United Workers Union, said today.

“Support workers are often the first worker on the scene when aged care residents are in distress or have had a fall.

“They are also called in when aged care residents are agitated or need a friendly face, because they sometimes have the most interaction with the resident.

“A cleaner in a room for 30 minutes is sometimes the most substantial contact residents have over a whole day.

“For example we know some aged care residents ask their cleaner to call them ‘Mum’ or ‘Dad’.

“Our submission reflects the many ways these aged care workers play a vital role in the lives of aged care residents, which goes well beyond providing essential services such as quality food, clean rooms, laundry and a well-functioning facility.

“Everyone in aged care knows support workers are essential to the aged care team that gives quality care to aged care residents.”

In July, “direct care” workers including nurses, personal care workers and Assistants in Nursing received a 15 per cent pay increase after unions brought the work value case and the Fair Work Commission ruled their work had been undervalued for decades.

But consideration of a wage rise for aged care support workers in the case was delayed by the Fair Work Commission to “stage 3” hearings, with submissions closing today ahead of hearings in December.

The United Workers Union’s submission shows support workers play essential – and often heartwarming – roles in aged care residents’ lives, with support workers’ relating anecdotes including*:

“One particular resident loves to share and shows me her colouring pictures that she has started or completed. Now that is maybe nothing to some but means so much to her. I love seeing the end result; so amazing.” – Natalie, Food Services, Queensland.

“We all have helped residents back to rooms or if they fall.” – Jana, Food Services, Queensland.

“I go to work 45 minutes early every day so I can complete my work and have the time to spend time with the residents.” – Grace, Cleaning, Queensland.

“I have comforted and supported a resident who had a nasty fall in our outdoor courtyard prior to getting clinical attention and kept her mind off the injury she had by general conversation and making her feel comfortable.” – Darren, Maintenance, Western Australia.

* Names changed to preserve anonymity.