Rest home operators push for pay parity

Care workers in Marlborough's private rest homes face lower pay than their counterparts in district health board-owned hospitals and aged care homes, rest home representatives say.

A campaign has been launched to achieve parity of pay as one Blenheim rest home operator said they were struggling to compete with the higher wage offered at DHB level.

Springlands Lifestyle Village director Chris Thornley said the pay disparity meant they could not attract the highly qualified staff needed.

Aged Care providers want a 12 per cent increase in government funding pumped into the sector over three years, to achieve a minimum rate of $17.50 per hour for caregivers.

The average hourly rate paid to caregivers working for aged care providers is $15.31 an hour. Care staff in district health board-owned hospitals and aged care rest homes receive $17.50 an hour.

Thornley said in the eight years he had worked in the industry funding had reduced.

"With some facilities I wonder how they survive," Thornley said. "The problem is we are not in a position to pay our care staff what they are really worth.

"We are very lucky in that we have good caregivers but we are always struggling to get more qualified high calibre staff. Every time we are recruiting we can't compete with the pay scale of DHB-run homes.

"We are in an industry where the pay is very low. The work is very demanding physically and mentally. It is a specialised field and not everyone makes a good care worker. We have good staff and I want to give them the pay rise they deserve."

New Zealand Aged Care Association represents rest homes.

Association chief executive Martin Taylor said there had been a pay disparity for far too long.

"Every facility receives a subsidy for their care from the government," Taylor said. "All costs, including wages have to come out of that subsidy, and it is tightly controlled by government. It's too tight and as the majority of operational costs in care are wages then it is caregivers who suffer.

"Our members are not in a position to pay the difference in wages from their own resources. It requires the Government to come to the party."

Taylor said anyone with a relative in care would appreciate caregivers. "Caregivers provide an elderly person with a sense of respect and dignity . . . every day. It makes it very difficult for caregivers to keep giving in this way when they are paid at a level that challenges their own dignity, and that's really the bottom line."

The Marlborough Express