Successful labor deal at Bega aged care facility could be a solution to labor shortages

An elderly care organization in New South Wales has struck a unique deal with the federal government to help address severe staffing shortages, which it says could become a model for other struggling businesses. hard to find workers.

Sapphire Coast Community Aged Care has entered into the labor agreement to recruit an additional 25 migrant workers each year to address staffing shortages caused by COVID-19 and international border closures in previous years.

Work agreements are developed between the Australian government and businesses to allow employers to sponsor skilled overseas workers.

Managing director Matt Sierp said the hard work to reach an agreement had paid off for the Bega-based organization.

“We had to hire immigration lawyers, recruitment specialists and consultants to help us through the bureaucracy,” he said.

“However, it is worth it because we have 16 new staff in the field and we have the opportunity [to employ] 25 new employees each year as part of this agreement.”

The organization said it was the first company in Australia to strike a deal with the government to allow nursing assistants (AiNs) to be part of the scheme.

Dani Ulibas has not seen his children, who live in the Philippines, for years.(ABC South East NSW: Keira Proust)

Workers plan to settle in the area

Dani Ulibas is one of the newest aged care workers to start under the deal.

His four children remain in the Philippines, but he hopes this new job will allow them to move to Australia.

“I really miss them and it’s been a really big sacrifice,” he said.

“But I hope that with this opportunity we can be together again after so many years apart.”

A man helping an old man to put on a slipper
Dani works as a caregiver for the residents of Bega’s Hillgrove House.(ABC South East NSW: Keira Proust)

Migrants working for the organization under these employment agreements will be eligible to apply for permanent residency after two years if the company nominates them.

At the end of the four-year contract, the organization can enter into an agreement with the individual workers to transition them to full-time positions.

Hanna Bhandari and her partner Anup Tiwari plan to stay in the area after the deal ends.

“I like Bega so I want to buy a house here after I get our residency,” Mr Tiwari said.

“The climate, peaceful environment and mountains are similar to what we have in Nepal.”

A Nepalese with two elderly residents
Anup Tiwari says the residents and the community are welcoming.(ABC South East NSW: Keira Proust)

The community helps provide housing

The housing crisis in regional Australia has made it harder for many businesses to attract staff.

Sapphire Coast Community Aged Care operations manager Julie Evans said she took rentals to resolve the issue.

“That’s my other job. Somehow I started doing some rentals,” she said.

“We currently have 15 rentals on our books.”

The company worked with local real estate agents to secure the rentals, and community organizations like Rotary provided the furniture.

A woman and a man in suits standing in a laundry room
Julie Evans and Matt Sierp say collective agreements could work for other companies.(ABC South East NSW: Keira Proust)

A “good model” for other companies

The aged care organization hopes the model can be replicated by other companies struggling with recruitment.

Mr. Sierp said he would be happy to share his idea with other interested companies.

“It would be a great model to see elsewhere,” he said.

“This one costs money, a lot of time and effort, but it’s definitely worth it.”

A Home Office spokesman said companies that wanted to “sponsor foreign workers” could apply to enter into a work agreement if they met certain conditions.

“Work arrangements are available where standard visa programs are not available and there is a demonstrated need that cannot be met in the Australian labor market,” the spokesperson said.

“Any Australian business that has been in business for at least 12 months can apply for an employment agreement.”

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