HWU MEMBERS NEW BULLETIN 14 SEPTEMBER 2021

HWU MEMBERS NEWS BULLETIN 14 SEPTEMBER 2021


PUBLIC SECTOR AGREEMENT UPDATE


For the past fortnight, the HWU has conducted online consultation meetings with members about the proposed public sector agreement. We have heard from members in every single classification.


The purpose of these meetings was to get direct feedback from our members. Thank you to the hundreds of members who participated in these meetings and asked questions. Your feedback is important.


During these meetings, many members asked questions about what their new pay rate will be - not aware of the significant classification uplift that goes far above the standard 8% pay rise. The HWU was able to negotiate these ‘additional’ real wage increases via the Victorian Government’s ‘Pillar 3’ wages policy. It’s what most public sector unions, such as the Police Association, have been able to negotiate with their members. The wages policy allows this leeway. 


The focus of the HWU has been to lift the wages of our members as much as possible. This meant many classifications that have had no review, or historically minimal uplift, would receive one this time around. The HWU is determined to lift the wages of non-clinical public hospital workers over the long-term. 


During these HWU online consultation meeetings, members in some classifications raised issues about their correct pay grades. If any classification group has any concerns, we can and will work to resolve any outstanding matters with the employers’ representative, the VHIA, and the Victorian Government. We will continue to consult our members, even at this stage in the Agreement process.The HWU will ensure your input is taken into consideration.

The Victorian Government will then commence a final drafting of the Agreement. Once this is finalised, the HWU will send a copy to all public sector members as we continue our consultaton. If you have any questions about the Agreement, please call the HWU on (03) 09341 3300.

 

FRIDAY DEADLINE FOR AGED CARE VACCINATIONS


As HWU aged care members know, after a decision by National Cabinet, it will be mandatory for all residential aged care workers to have received a minimum first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine by 17 September 2021 – this Friday. This includes ever single worker in a facility – not just workers in direct care roles. 


Under current Federal Government regulations, aged care workers are only able to continue working after September 17, provided they can give evidence to their employer that they are booked in for their first COVID vaccine shot prior to October 1. Unvaccinated workers will essentially have a two-week window beyond September 17. 


The Health Workers Union encourages all aged care workers to get vaccinated against COVID19, however, we do not support mandatory vaccination. We have made this clear to the Commonwealth Government. A significant proportion of aged care workers do not want to get vaccinated, primarily due to personal health concerns. In a recent HWU survey, hundreds of our aged care members indicated that they will leave the industry altogether if they are forced to get vaccinated. 


We maintain that the industry is already short-staffed and stretched as it is, and mandatory vaccination will create labour shortages. The HWU is aware of employers last week frantically trying to fill fortnightly rosters as a percentage of their workplace remains unvaccinated. This is already creating workload pressures on our aged care workforce.


For more information about mandatory vaccination of aged care workers, please click on the following link https://www.coronavirus.vic.gov.au/information-workers-required-to-be-vaccinated. 

 

OPTIONS FOR UNVACCINATED RESIDENTIAL AGED CARE WORKERS


The Health Workers Union (HWU) has sought legal advice regarding the decision of the National Cabinet and Victoria’s Chief Health Officer to mandate COVID-19 vaccinations for all workers in Residential Aged Care Facilities (RACF) from 17 September 2021.


You can access the directions here: https://www.health.gov.au/initiatives-and-programs/covid-19-vaccines/information-for-aged-care-providers-workers-and-residents-about-covid-19-vaccines/residential-aged-care-workers#do-i-need-to-get-vaccinated. 


On 17 September 2021 (this Friday), it will be a condition of employment for all aged care workers that they comply with this direction. The Victoria Government has confirmed that it will comply and enforce the National Cabinet’s decision. You can access the directions of Victoria’s Chief Health Officer here: https://www.dhhs.vic.gov.au/sites/default/files/documents/202109/covid-19-mandatory-vaccination-directions.pdf. 


Legal advice received by the HWU indicates that these are lawful and reasonable directions. There are, however, 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). You can access the advice from ATAGI here: https://www.health.gov.au/sites/default/files/documents/2021/08/covid-19-vaccination-atagi-clinical-guidance-on-covid-19-vaccine-in-australia-in-2021.pdf. 


Your treating physician (such as your GP) is best-placed to assess your medical condition and to indicate 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 and if there is any dispute, the HWU will stand by our members. 


An employer in the aged-care industry must comply with the National Cabinet decision.  It is a condition of their registration with the Commonwealth Government that they enforce the National Cabinet decision.  We therefore expect that aged-care providers will strictly enforce the directions of the National Cabinet and Victoria’s Chief Health Officer. If you choose not to be vaccinated, your employment in the aged care industry may be compromised.


If members have an 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.


Whilst the HWU does not agree with the decision of the National Cabinet or the Victorian Chief Health Officer, we can’t change the rules.  We can help you to ensure that they are carried out lawfully.

 

QUEENSLAND LATEST STATE TO MAKE COVID VACCINATIONS MANDATORY FOR ALL HEALTH WORKERS


On Sunday, the Queensland Government announced that all Queensland health workers must get at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine by September 30 and be fully inoculated by the end of October. 


This means that four Australian states – New South Wales, Queensland, Western Australia, and Tasmania have now announced mandatory COVID-19 vaccinations for all health workers. Victoria and South Australia are the only Australian States yet to do so.


The Queensland Health Minister, Yvette D’Ath, said measures would be taken to address unvaccinated health workers. "They may be re-deployed to elsewhere in different roles. So we will work with them as to the risk level what their roles are," she said. 


"It'll be looking at any person who comes forward and says, 'I can't, I don't want to get vaccinated at this point in time,' we will look at what role they perform where they work in the health system and what arrangements will suit them best. "If an individual feels so strongly that they do not want to work in an environment that they have to be vaccinated, that is a choice for them … but I hope that we can come to arrangements with every one of our staff to ensure that they can continue to support the health system, the Minister said.


To date the Victorian Government has still not given a clear indication on whether it will follow the majority of other Australian states and make covid vaccinations mandatory for all Victorian health workers. 


Such a decision to introduce mandatory vaccinations across the entire health sector could create disruption, with labor shortages already being reported among many Victorian aged care facilities where mandatory vaccinations are set to be introduced from September 17.  


The HWU is aware that a number of private and public sector hospital and pathology employers are, within the last fortnight, attempting to put in place policies to implement mandatory COVID19 vaccinations. To date, the Victorian Government has not mandated these vaccinations. This means employers are doing this without going through normal processes with respect to consultation. 


The HWU does not support mandatory vaccinations across the entire health sector. Employers who introduce this are doing so outside of current Victorian Government policy. 

 

HOME AND COMMUNITY CARE WAGE CASE


The HWU is making its formal submission into the review into the Social, Community, Home Care and Disability Services Industry Award 2010. The Award rates do not provide an adequate safety net for workers, significantly undervaluing the work performed by our home and community members. 


Thank to members who contacted the HWU and assisted us with our submission. Your feedback has been invaluable in making our submission. Some of the compelling stories from our home and community members were harrowing.  They are worth far more than what the Award allows. 


We will ensure their voice is heard by the fair Work Commissioners who will decide on this matter. 

 

DELEGATE TRAINING FROM NOVEMBER


HWU Workplace Delegates Training dates have now been set for November and December.


This week, HWU Delegates will be notified via an sms to express their interest to participating in the training. Once this interest is registered, we will notify these HWU Delegates of the training dates. It is imperative that the employer be given sufficient notice of the dates that you are booked in to participate in training.


We are hopeful that the training will be in person at our South Melbourne office. This will,ofcourse, depend on government lockdown restrictions. If these restrictions are still in place in November, we will likely switch the training module to an online format. 


Previously, over 300 HWU Workplace Delegates have participated in this two-day accredited course. Delegates that have previously participated in the original course will be asked to express their interest in our HWU Advanced Delegate Training Course. 


Public Sector participants are paid to attend this two-day course, pursuant to the public sector Agreement. Participants are not required to take any personal or annual leave to attend training. Your pay will not be affected in any way by attending.


If your worksite or hospital department does not have a HWU Workplace Delegate and you are interested in becoming a Delegate and participating in training, please email the HWU on (03) 9341 3300 or email info@hwu.org.au and we can send you information about what the role entails.

 

UPCOMING ENTERPRISE AGREEMENT NEGOTIATIONS


The HWU has oversight for hundreds of workplace Agreements. A great number of these are in the aged care sector and private sector.  Many of these agreements are set to expire in 2022. 


This means new workplace Agreements (and pay increases) will need to be re-negotiated. Contact the union if you have any questions about your Agreement and when it expires. 


This first step for the HWU will be to formally notify an employer that the HWU, as your bargaining representative, intends to negotiate the next workplace Agreement. From there, we will consult affeted HWU members (usually with an online survey and meetings with HWU Delegates) about what they want to see in the next Agreement.  The HWU is looking for workplace HWU Delegates and leaders in worksites to assist us with this process. Not all workplaces have an appointed HWU Delegate.


The key to securing better pay and conditions at your workplace is having strong and active union members and HWU Workplace Delegates. If you do not have a HWU Workplace Delegate at your wokplace and your are interested in becoming one, simply email info@hwu.org.au with the heading: HWU Delegate Expression of Interest. Together, we are always stronger!

 

AGED CARE SINGLE SITE WORKING ARRANGEMENTS EXTENDED YET AGAIN


The Federal Government has just extended its funding for aged care single-site workforce arrangements to September 23 for Regional Victoria. Shepparton Shire and Greater Melbourne are extended until further notice.


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. 

 

HWU ADVICE FOR DISCIPLINARY MEETINGS

The HWU reminds all members that if you are faced with any form of disciplinary action from your employer, the first order of business is to call the union on (03) 9341 3300. Under no circumstances attend a meeting on your own with speaking to the union first. It is your legal right, under the Fair Work Act, to have a representative present with you during a disciplinary meeting.

If you are facing any disciplinary action, not matter how big or small, ask your employer to put their concerns formally in writing to you. Then forward a copy of this to the HWU by emailing info@hwu.org.au. Clearly state your name, member number and the best time for the HWU to contact you. You are not alone. The HWU has experienced Case Officers whose job it is to assist our members and, where necessary, attend meetings with our members and represent them. 

 

NEW HWU REGIONAL ORGANISER


The union welcomes new HWU Regional Organiser Megan Reid to our team. Megan is one of five HWU Regional Organisers employed at the union and will service and assist members in the Northern and Central Victorian region. She has extensive experience in the health industry.

Megan has come from the Community Health Sector, working in Occupational Health and Safety. She has also previously worked in Public and Private Health in Administration.  Prior to this, Megan initially got her start in the health industry as a Dental Nurse.

Based in the Albury Wodonga region, she is a committed unionist and a great addition to the Regional Organising Team led by Steve Mitchell. If you work in Northern and Central Victoria, and need Megan’s advice or direct assistance to resolve a workplace issue, call the HWU on (03) 9341 3300.