Q&A: What does the aged care pay rise mean for a cleaner

In this interview, Inside Ageing (IA) spoke with Tina, a cleaner employed in a residential aged care facility in QLD. Tina has worked as a cleaner in aged care for over 16 years and like most, was left feeling disappointed by last week’s announcement that cleaners, along with laundry hands and food services assistants will receive a pay increase of 6.96 per cent.

On average, cleaners in the facility where Tina works earn $25 per hour, which based on 35 hours per week will result in an additional $60 per week (before tax). By comparison, Level 1 (entry-level) direct care workers will receive a 20.9% increase, with increases of up to 28.5% for Level 5 workers.

IA: Is this fair?

Tina is quick to acknowledge the great work of the carers and that the large increase is deserved, but points out that cleaners are frontline staff too!

We’re in the rooms with the clients all the time, we speak with them and help make them feel comfortable. We need to know them well so that we can work around their schedule. I try and clean a room when the person is having breakfast or is elsewhere so as to fit in with them.

It is much more difficult in the dementia ward given people tend to wander. We just need to do our best to work around them.

IA: What does your typical day look like?

Tina: I work 7 hours per day and clean 23 rooms – some with an ensuite bathroom and balconies. I also do some reception and other duties. We’re still living with COVID outbreaks, so I also need to pack laundry because the laundry staff cannot come into the rooms during an infection.

If there is an infection we need to put on PPE before entering a room and take it off when we leave. If there are 3 or more infections we go into lockdown, which is much harder. We need to wear PPE, including facemasks and shields all the time.

It was also really disappointing that during COVID we only received a single pay bonus, whereas carers received three. We were just as affected as the care workers. We also caught COVID multiple times…

IA: Is it difficult to attract cleaners to work in aged care?

Tina: It used to be easy, but it is much harder now. If someone doesn’t turn up then we just need to pick up their work.

There is no appreciation for the time spent in the industry. I have worked in aged care for 16 years and someone can come in and start tomorrow – earning only $1 per hour less than me!

IA: Thank you

If you would like to add to the discussion place your comment in the thread below or email our news desk – news@insideageing.com.au


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