It’s an extraordinary thing to see the typically gentle people who work in aged care banging drums on the street and howling outside a building. But the chants of “Blue Care, Be Fair” at a rally in Brisbane last week was the latest outpouring of growing anger at the poor conditions offered to workers in Australia’s aged care sector.
The immediate issue is a new enterprise agreement put to Queensland’s aged care workers by providers Blue Care and Wesley Mission, both of which are agencies of the Uniting Church.
Most of the workers banging drums in Brisbane had never taken industrial action before, but someone like Deborah, who I met at the demonstration, felt she had little choice. She explained to me that under the agreement her employer was seeking, she could be compelled to work up to three single-hour shifts in a day – with no travel time or fuel costs covered by the company.
She was joined in the crowd by Natalie – not a worker, but the daughter-in-law of a woman in care. Natalie, told me she felt obliged to defend the workers who shared the care of her loved one, and to whom she’d become close. She had concerns of just what kind of quality care was likely for families if care workers themselves are exploited, underpaid and overburderned