Controversial Union access: Aged care labour agreement sparks debate

Due to the special access rights granted to unions, the Albanese government’s new migration rules for addressing aged care staff shortages have stirred controversy. The government’s labour agreement for temporary skilled workers in aged care includes an extensive memorandum of understanding (MoU) outlining union access conditions and labour market testing. This move has been described by some as a stealthy unionisation of the workforce. This story was first reported by the AFR.

Inside Ageing has received a number of calls from providers expressing concern ahead of next week’s Labour Agreement webinar. Inside Ageing will be running a special session looking at how to go about applying for a Labour Agreement to source overseas staff…Read more.

Under the MoU, management is explicitly excluded from attending worker inductions unless invited by the union and expressing a positive commitment to collaboration. While the government and unions defend these measures as necessary to prevent exploitation and ensure quality aged care, opposition parties and industry groups view it as union overreach that impedes providers from participating in the program. The Aged Care Labour Agreement template can be found here.

Critics argue that the MoU grants unions unprecedented rights, including increased entry into aged care workplaces and control over employment decisions. They raise concerns about the potential coercion of workers to join unions and the erosion of employers’ freedom of association. Moreover, there are worries that this agreement sets a precedent for other sectors and undermines the autonomy of employers.

Despite the controversies, unions assert that the MoU aims to enhance worker protection and retention in the aged care sector. They argue that it ensures workers know their rights and can raise care concerns without fear of job loss or reprisals. Unions report overwhelming interest from providers and migration agents since the public announcement of the labour agreement, with many expressing enthusiasm for the program.

The debate surrounding the union access provisions in the aged care labour agreement continues to unfold, with stakeholders advocating for their respective positions on workers’ rights, employer autonomy, and the impact on the labour market.

Inside Ageing has contacted a number of stakeholders for comment and will update this story once they respond.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here