Home > Social Issues, The Body Politic > “It’s one of those things we’d love to do if we had the cash”

“It’s one of those things we’d love to do if we had the cash”


Frank Macskasy Blog Frankly Speaking

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Kudos to Human Rights Commissioner,  Dr Judy McGregor, for getting out of her office  to  work  ‘undercover’ in a residential aged care hospital. She discovered, first hand, the incredible hard work that rest home care-workers do – for the obscenely pitiful sum of $13.61 – caring for our elderly parents, grandparents, other family members, spouses, and friends.

The media report referred to,

” Although there were hoists to pull people from beds, there was still a lot of heavy lifting, and she was constantly worried she would hurt or drop someone.   ” – Ibid

This blogger is aware of the risks to resthome workers from heavy lifting. I am aware of one young woman who was a worker for Presbyterian Support Services, in the late 1990s. She damaged her back and went on  ACC for rehabilitation. Within a few months, she had lost her job at PSS;  ACC used one of their corporate medical specialists in Auckland to “re-assess” her; and she was ‘transferred’ to WINZ and put on to a sickness benefit. No further rehab – she was now a beneficiary and someone elses’ problem.

New Zealanders should be very worried about the poor pay and support given to resthome careworkers.

We are all aging.  A growing number of us will end up in rest homes – to be cared for by these low-paid workers. And we’ve been lucky so far in that resthome workers are deeply dedicated to their clients. As Dr McGregor said,

The complexity of the job was actually a surprise for me. It’s quite physical work, and it’s emotionally draining because you are obliged to give of yourself to other people.   Saint-like women do it every day so that older New Zealanders can have a quality of lifeAt the end of the day, carers are being paid less than the minimum wage for work that is grossly undervalued.

The question we should be asking ourselves is; how much longer can we rely on the good will of these workers?

All New Zealand workers are getting older – and this includes those rest home workers currently caring for the aged and infirm. The number of workers paying taxes to support retirees will be dropping from now onwards  (a fact which National continues to ignore),

At present, there are about 18 elderly people (i.e., 65 years and over) per 100 people of ‘working age’ (i.e., 15-64 years). By 2051, this ratio is predicted to increase to 43 per 100. ” – Source

Which means that as we move closer to the middle of this century, there will be fewer and fewer people in the workforce. This will put pressure on labour demand. That will result in pressure on wages. That  will result in  a labour shortage, as we saw in the early 2000s, during the previous Labour government.

As we Baby Boomers and Gen Yers reach retirement – who will be caring for us? Who will be wiping our chins and butts?

CTU spokeswoman Eileen Brown said that pay and work conditions had been a concern since the 1990s, and had continued to worsen. She’s right,


Frank Macskasy Blog Frankly Speaking


When this issue was presented to Dear Leader, he leapt into instant, immediate, action,


Frank Macskasy Blog Frankly Speaking

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As Key said,

It’s one of those things we’d love to do if we had the cash. As the country moves back to surplus it’s one of the areas we can look at but I think most people would accept this isn’t the time we have lots of extra cash.

“You could certainly change the proportion of where you spend money in health. We spend about $14.5 billion in the overall health sector.

“What’s going to go to pay the increase in this area? If you said all of the increase is going to go into this area, that would be roughly $600m over the forecast period which is four years… So that would have left us $1bn for other things.

“We put the money into cancer care and nursing and various other things. On balance, we think we got that about right. “

No, Mr Key, you did not “get this about right”.

How can you have “got it about right”, Mr Key,  when careworkers for our aged and infirm are paid rates that have been thoroughly condemned, by Dr McGregor, as  ” a form of modern-day slavery “?

It is interesting that John Key complains about a lack of funds,

It’s one of those things we’d love to do if we had the cash. As the country moves back to surplus it’s one of the areas we can look at but I think most people would accept this isn’t the time we have lots of extra cash.

Perhaps National would not have to wait until “ the country moves back to surplus ” – had they not cut taxes in 2009 nand 2010.

The 2009 tax cuts cost New Zealand $1 billion in lost revenue – there was no corresponding rise in GST,

New Zealand households will get a billion-dollar-a-year boost from tax cuts which take effect this week, Finance Minister Bill English and Revenue Minister Peter Dunne said today.

See:  Government delivers April 1 tax cuts, SME changes

Despite a rise a GST, the 2010 tax cuts  resulted in a $1.6 billion to $2.2 billion drop in taxation revenue.

See: Government’s 2010 tax cuts costing $2 billion and counting

That’s roughly $3 billion in lost revenue. Which would have been ample cash to even double the wage rate for careworkers.

The  first round of tax cuts on 1 April 2009 defies any logic. Especially when one considers that Treasury was already predicting a massive Budget blow-out and deficit as the global financial crisis and recession impacted on our own economy. The looming deficit was already known, a month before,


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Even the Opposition Labour party was supportive of a more rational, prudent fiscal approach,

Labour has recently said it would support the government if it deferred the April tax cuts because of the rapid deterioration of the global economy. Prime Minister John Key has said the cuts will go ahead. ” – Ibid

Madmen were in control of the country’s treasury, and were hell-bent of spraying tax-dollars around,  as if we were still in the booming mid-2000s.

Unfortunately, three years later, the tax-cut revellry was over; Treasury was empty; and we are living the consequences of the ‘Mother of All Fiscal Hangovers‘, owing billions in debt. (As an aside – it’s crazy how so  many New Zealanders still harbour delusions of National’s “prudent fiscal management”.)

Little wonder that John Key is adamant that we don’t have the cash to raise the wages of our lowest paid healthcare/resthome workers. He’s telling the truth.

Because Dear Leader and National ‘partied like drunken sailors’ and frittered $3 billion away in an orgy of profligate tax cuts.

That is why rest home workers are struggling to survive on $13.61 an hour.

I wonder… who’s going to look after us when we retire?

Because as more workers retire, and the labour market shrinks, we are  faced with only two stark choices,

  1. Reverse the taxcuts and/or User Pays to pay for rest home workers in the coming decades,
  2. Or learn to wipe your own chins and butts.

It’s our call.




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Mainstream Media Reports

Resthome spy hails saint-like workers

PM: No money for aged care workers

MPs get pay rise package of $7000

Related blogposts

1 March – No Rest for Striking Workers!

No Rest for the Wicked


Facing an Ageing Workforce: Information for Public Service HR Managers



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  1. Kay
    29 May 2012 at 12:21 am

    Who has more money – the Government or aged care workers? Who needs the money so they can feed their families and pay their bills? How much money are we talking about? Maybe 0.0001% of spare money in Government coffers or 50% of money rest home workers get in hand after tax? You can guess my answer

  2. Jena
    29 May 2012 at 12:22 am

    No, we don’t wait until Government has their books in balance because this is already a shocking indictment on how NZ values the care provided to our infirmed elderly. And having recognised how under-paid the Carers are, surely they have a case for backpay, so the longer their explotation continues, the higher the back dues.

  3. 29 May 2012 at 1:23 am

    Not long ago in Australia a report was released similar to this one. It stated that aged care and disability care workers were receiving the lowest pay rates in the country. It then went on to claim that Australia as a country simply cannot afford to pay care workers a fair wage as to do so would bankrupt the country…… Not long after that another section of the workforce… ironically nurses I think… were awarded their second award wage rise in as many years and of course as you point out pollies are always giving themselves drastic salary increases…. honestly…. it’s disgusting……

  4. Deborah Kean
    1 June 2012 at 3:17 pm

    My daughter in law works at Selwyn Village, and together with the work she did in Rotorua, has worked in aged care for over 10 years. She has health issues herself, (although she is only 35) and it’s only her dedication to her ‘ladies’ that keeps her going!

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