22/05/2007 - 22:00

Not For Profit: Costs, staff issues hit sector

22/05/2007 - 22:00

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With Western Australian workers commanding the highest salaries in the nation and the state’s unemployment rate at just 2.7 per cent, the not-for-profit sector is struggling to compete with other industries as it faces an acute shortage of staff.

Not For Profit: Costs, staff issues hit sector

With Western Australian workers commanding the highest salaries in the nation and the state’s unemployment rate at just 2.7 per cent, the not-for-profit sector is struggling to compete with other industries as it faces an acute shortage of staff.

 

Among the areas most affected is the disability services sector, which can’t match the high salaries available elsewhere.

 

This movement of staff away from the sector is adding to the growing skills deficit, as experienced direct support workers retire without being replaced.

 

National Disability Services WA state manager Carlo Calogero said the skills shortage became significant about three years ago and was escalating.

 

“A significant factor in this problem is the comparatively poor level of pay that these workers receive,” he said.

 

A Chamber of Commerce and Industry WA report last year found disability direct care workers in WA receive $60 less per week than comparable workers in aged care and child care services.

 

A subsequent study of support workers across Australia showed WA had the lowest paid disability direct care workers of all the states.

 

Nulsen Haven Association (Inc) chief executive officer Gordon Trewern said the situation was critical, with the organisation having lost 77 staff members in the past year.

 

“In the past 12 months, we’ve also had a 45 per cent increase in overtime and that’s costing us a lot of money,” Mr Trewern said.

 

Nulsen Haven has increased its use of agency staff by 250 per cent during the past year and currently has 25 vacancies for direct support workers.

 

These employees receive $15 per hour, plus penalty rates, although some other agencies pay as little as $11 per hour, without penalty rates, according to Mr Trewern.

 

He said the sector had made a rough calculation that an extra $13 million of state government funding would be required on an annual basis to meet the shortfall in wages.

 

“We believe that’s a small portion in an economy the size of WA’s,” he said.

 

Mr Trewern said the shortage was creating occupational health and safety issues, with staff often performing double shifts, and was affecting staff morale.

 

According to John Knowles, chief executive of the Centre for Cerebral Palsy, the state government’s recent budget commitment of $14.5 million to the sector does not include strategies to address the staff shortage.

 

Mr Knowles said his organisation was struggling to recruit staff in the current market.

 

“We ran a half-page ad in The West Australian newspaper two weeks ago and we had less than 30 inquiries from it. At the end, there may be two inquiries that turn out to be leads,” he said.

 

The Centre for Cerebral Palsy is looking to fill 25 vacancies, as well as recruit candidates for a relief and casual workers pool.

 

“That was an ad pitched at people returning to the workforce, such as mums or people who are underemployed or not employed,” Mr Knowles said.  

 

“There are carers ads everywhere; consequently, we’re not meeting supply and staff are working overtime, so there’s a burnout factor.”

 

Rocky Bay director of human resources James Watson said the sector needed to be more creative in its approach to recruitment, although the effect may be limited.

 

“We’re try to do our HR and recruitment in smarter ways and be more participatory with others in the sector, like collaborating in recruitment expos,” he said.

 

“The only other way is to recruit interstate or overseas, and that’s not something Rocky Bay could do on our own – it would have to be in a collective and co-operative way.”

 

Mr Watson said Rocky Bay was also offering new training courses to staff, to encourage staff retention.

 

 

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