HWU MEMBERS BULLETIN 7 OCTOBER 2021

MANDATORY COVID VACCINATIONS FOR HEALTH WORKERS

The Victorian Chief Health Officer has now formerly issued directions in relation to the vaccination of all Victorian health workers.
Go to the following link for more info: https://www.dhhs.vic.gov.au/sites/default/files/documents/202110/COVID-19%20Mandatory%20Vaccination%20Directions%20%28No%205%29.pdf
 
The Victorian Government has mandated COVID vaccinations not just for the health industry, but also for the construction industry and for teachers. In fact, anyone who is now classified as an ‘Authorised Worker’ will be required to be vaccinated. The move affects over one million Victorians. For more info about this, go to the following link: https://www.premier.vic.gov.au/vaccination-required-protect-workers-and-victoria. To date, the Chief Health Officer is yet to issue these directions formally.
 
From 15 October 2021, in order to work in a healthcare setting, you must be able to provide evidence to your employer that you:
  • are fully vaccinated with two doses of the COVID-19 vaccine, or
  • have received your first dose and have a booking to receive your second dose by 15 December 2021, or
  • haven't received any doses but have a booking to receive your first dose by 29 October 2021, or
  • have a medical exemption evidenced by an authorised medical practitioner
For more info, go to the following link: https://www.coronavirus.vic.gov.au/information-workers-required-be-vaccinated. 
 

QUESTIONS & ANSWERS ABOUT MANDATORY VACCINATIONS

Do workers need to provide evidence of their vaccination status? 
 
Yes. Workers must provide evidence of their COVID-19 vaccination status, or of an authorised exemption to vaccination, to their employer before 15 October 2021.
 
How do I provide evidence of my vaccination status?
  • Online immunisation history statement – this displays all vaccinations or medical contraindications and authorised exemptions, including COVID-19, that have been reported to the Australian Immunisation Register (AIR). All vaccine providers must upload vaccinations to the AIR.
  • COVID-19 Digital Certificate from the Australian Immunisation Register - this is for individuals who have received all required doses of a COVID-19 vaccine in Australia.
How do I access my Immunisation History Statement? 
  • Online, by setting up your own myGov account and then accessing your Medicare online account; or
  • through the Express Plus Medicare mobile app; or
  • by calling the Australian Immunisation Register enquiries line on 1800 653 809 (8am-5pm, Monday to Friday AEST) and asking them to send your statement to you. Please note, there are delays with Australia Post and you may not receive it by 15 October.
What if I cannot get vaccinated before the 15 October 2021 deadline?
 
Between 15 and 29 October 2021, employers cannot allow a healthcare worker who has not provided evidence of their vaccination from entering their health facility unless they:
  • provide evidence that they have an appointment to be vaccinated by 29 October 2021, and
  • wear additional personal protective equipment (at a minimum, a surgical mask and face shield, though certain health facilities may require higher levels of PPE), at all times that they are present at the health facility.
What happens if I choose not to be vaccinated?
 
Your employer will not allow you to work at the healthcare facility.
 
What happens if I give misleading information?
 
You may be fined $10, 904.40.
 
What will happen to me if I cannot comply with the directions?
 
If you are unable to comply with the directions, (and only if the employer agrees), you may take annual leave, long service leave, or leave without pay. 
 
The HWU has negotiated with many health employers to allow our members to access their leave in the interim, instead of immediate termination. Some employers have agreed to this. 
 
The HWU encourages all Victorian health workers to get vaccinated against COVID19, however, we do not support mandatory vaccinations. A significant proportion of health workers do not want to get vaccinated, primarily due to personal health concerns. We have concerns that many sectors of the health industry, such as the aged care sector, are already short-staffed and stretched as it is, and mandatory vaccination – whilst well-intentioned – will create labour force shortages. Mandatory vaccinations have the potential to create even greater workload pressures on our health workforce.
 
What if I have a medical exemption?
 
There are exemptions for those who have a medical condition the prevents them from being COVID-19 vaccinated, based on the advice of the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI). 
 
A treating physician (such as your GP) is best placed to assess your medical condition and to determine if you are medically exempt from the requirement to be vaccinated. You will be required to provide evidence to your employer to prove that you are certified as medically exempt.  Employers should respect the advice of your treating physician.
If members have a medical exemption and employers are not recognising it, the HWU will stand behind its members and support them to ensure their livelihood is not put at risk.
 
Can I go back to work later if I don’t get a vaccine?
 
Only if the directions from the Chief Health Officer change in future. They will be reviewed monthly, but it is expected that they will be in place until the pandemic is under control. 
If you have any other questions about mandatory COVID vaccination of health workers, please call the HWU on (03) 9341 3300. 
 

OH&S REPS CONFERENCE – SIGN UP NOW (REGISTRATION CLOSES 20 OCTOBER)

Health and Safety Reps that are well trained and well supported are the key to healthy and safe workplaces. What better way to spend a day in Health and Safety Month than honing your HSR skills at our ACTU conference with thousands of other Victorian HSRs? 
 
To sign up, click on the following link: https://www.ohsrep.org.au/conference2021
 
This year we will hear from keynote speaker Professor Lin Fritschi, John Curtin Distinguished Professor and Epidemiologist from Curtin University. Prof. Fritschi will be speaking about how to put the 'H' back in HSR and how HSRs can identify and fix health issues in their workplace. 
 
OH&S Reps will hear from a panel of OH&S experts from different industries and HSR’s are invited to ask questions. Attendees will be allocated into groups to discuss how the ideas learnt can be implemented in their workplace.
 
This conference is approved by WorkSafe under Section 69 of the OHS Act. HSR’s are entitled to paid time off work to attend this training. You can download a copy of the WorkSafe certificate of approval here if your employer requires you to provide it as evidence.
 
HSRs will receive a certificate of attendance at the conclusion of the conference. Attendance will be tracked via the email you register with, and use to log on with on the day of the conference, and will be based on your attendance to all 3 sessions throughout the day. Please note, this conference will be held online due to COVID restrictions.
 

SIGN THE HWU PETITION FOR ANNUAL COVID RETENTION BONUS PAYMENTS

https://www.megaphone.org.au/petitions/covid-bonus-for-all-victorian-health-workers
 
The workload of Victoria’s health workers has drastically increased and will continue to do so during this continued COVID19 pandemic outbreak in Victoria.
 
In our hospitals, for example, cleaners fully sterilizing a specific area – not once, but three times during a few hours – in accordance with a hospital’s stringent COVID-19 sterilization requirements. Our security officers undertake rigorous security protocols for every visitor and patient, which then needed to be documented by admin workers. There are similar stories across all health sectors.
 
Everyone’s workload has increased. As the Victorian Government has said, health workers will continue to be stretched over the coming months. That’s why the HWU is now pushing the Victorian Government for COVID retention bonus payments for our public hospital workers. COVID is here to stay in some capacity or another.  Annual payments to health workers in recognition of this added workload is only fair.
 
Please sign this petition to Premier Daniel Andrews calling on the Victorian Government to fund these payments for public sector employees: https://www.megaphone.org.au/petitions/covid-bonus-for-all-victorian-health-workers. 
 
For private health providers, including private hospitals, aged care, disability and pathology - we are also seeking a form of payment in our workplace Agreements 'Logs of Claims' going forward. It is appropriate that all workers receive a ‘COVID retention bonus’. Aged carers will remember receiving a ‘retention bonus’ from the Federal Government last year. The HWU firmly believes a ‘COVID retention bonus’ payment should be going to all health workers in these difficult times. We are looking to insert this payment clause into workplace Agreements going forward.
 

AGED CARE SINGLE SITE WORKING ARRANGEMENTS EXTENDED YET AGAIN

The Federal Government has now extended its funding for aged care single-site workforce arrangements on an ongoing basis. There appears to be no end date at this stage whilst community infection rates remain high in Victoria. 
 
This funding means if you are working across multiple aged care workplaces, your primary employer can apply for Federal Government funding to ensure you are paid for lost hours at your second facility. 
 
This funding is now available for ALL Victoria aged care workers, not just those in specific Local Government Areas.
 
Aged care providers are asked to adjust their rosters to ensure staff are only working at one residential aged care facility within this region during this period. Workers are encouraged to speak with their primary employer and look to work all shifts during this period with the residential aged care provider where they were working the most hours prior to the outbreak.
 
To the greatest extent possible, the employer should seek to match any hours no longer being worked with a secondary employer to ensure the worker is not financially disadvantaged.
In the first instance, please have a direct conversation with your primary employer if you are affected by this current single-site arrangement.
 
The HWU is aware of some employers who are refusing to make an application to the Federal Government for funding. If you are eligible for funding and your employer refuses to make and application on your behalf, contact the HWU immediately on (03) 9341 3300. 
 

FOLLOW THE HWU ON SOCIAL MEDIA

For the latest union news, information and campaign all HWU members are encouraged to follow the HWU on social media. Be sure to comment, like and share. 
  • Facebook @ Health Workers Union
  • Twitter @ Health_Workers
  • Instagram @ health_workers_union

To contact the HWU, call (03) 9341 3300 between 8.30am and 5.00pm, Monday to Friday (excluding public holidays. Alternatively, you can email info@hwu.org.au. 

CHECK YOUR PAYSLIPS

Many members have contacted the HWU this week after being paid incorrectly by their employer for working on Grand Final Friday (24 September 2021). This day is a gazetted public holiday, which means it attracts public holiday penalty rates. In the first instance, please contact your payroll office to query your payment if you believe you were not paid correctly. If you receive an unsatisfactory answer, contact the HWU immediately on (03) 9341 3300.