HACSU goes to Canberra to put disability on the agenda
Since the start of COVID, disability workers have overwhelmingly accepted requirements around compulsory vaccination to protect participants, but when it comes to ensuring workers’ livelihoods, the government has gone missing.
We are not going to let federal and state governments continue to ignore disability services. The urgent need for paid isolation leave for disability workers is the front and centre of this matter.
We have directly raised this issue with the State Health Minister Jeremy Rockcliff, and he has provided the information from us to his federal counterparts.
Last week, joined by workers from across the country, disability advocates and employer representatives, HACSU delegates Danny McCormick and Ruth Teague and our Industrial Manager Robbie Moore headed to Canberra to meet with key politicians to demand urgent support for disability services. We had written to Prime Minister Scott Morrison to ask for a meeting, but he didn’t even do the courtesy of responding.
However, our meetings with the Leader of the Opposition Anthony Albanese and Shadow Disability Minister Bill Shorten were highly productive. Along with the need for paid isolation leave, we also raised issues around access to rapid antigen tests and protective equipment and incentive payments for disability workers.
We will continue to campaign and lobby on these matters, especially with the federal election most likely coming up in May this year. Thank you to members who participated in our survey which has provided critical information to support the need to address these issues.
Overpayments and the right way to deal with it
When workers are found to be underpaid, it’s always the payroll system to blame and some bosses couldn’t be more meticulous and reluctant to pay back the money owed to staff. But when workers are overpaid, some employers tend to make it seem more like employees’ fault than payroll errors.
We recently became aware of an organisation trying to recover overpayments made to employees. Instead of fixing the issue as it happened months ago, the employer decided to hold over it to a future date and just underpay workers by the amount the employer believed they had overpaid them.
In doing so, the employer failed to provide affected employees any evidence of where or how they were overpaid, nor did they give staff an opportunity to negotiate with management a plan that suited both parties to recover the overpayment.
Being overpaid doesn’t mean that employees don’t have rights. Employers must follow a proper process to solve the issue.
If this has happened to you, let us know so we can protect your rights.
Has your employer asked you to quarantine?
If your employer wants you to quarantine on their terms, they should pay you your projected work roster whilst you stay at home until they deem that it’s safe for you to return to work. Otherwise, they are simply trying to rip you off by debiting your annual or personal leave accruals to cover for your absence from work.
COVID is no excuse to rip workers off. If you don’t think you are treated fairly at work, contact us for help and advice.
Isolation period for close contacts
As Public Health advice is constantly changing, it can be hard to keep up with the latest rules. Not only do some workers get confused, but your workplace may also be behind on the current information in some instances.
A disability provider in the north west recently told their workers that they would need to isolate for 14 days if they were identified as a close contact. We wrote to this provider and reminded them the current Public Health advice was that disability support workers are essential workers, and therefore they only have to isolate for 7 days if they’re classed as close contacts.
Upon looking into it further, the employer has now amended their requirement as per the current Public Health direction.
If you are told to do something by your employer due to COVID and you want to check if that’s correct, give HACSUassist a call so we can look into it for you.
PPE and staffing issues in disability
We are seeing quite a few concerning issues for disability workers during the current COVID wave.
Firstly, many workers are provided with only the basic PPE. While it may be okay to use the basic masks for day-to-day work, there also needs to be N95 masks and face shields available at all workplaces so that if there is an outbreak, workers can go to an extra level of protection immediately.
Staffing shortage is another key issue in many organisations. Because workers are struck down by COVID or put into isolation, there are not enough of them to cover shifts. Staff on the ground thus have to work short-staffed or pick up extra shifts, and of course they’ll get fatigued, make mistakes or turn up for a shift late and sometimes they will struggle to keep a smile on their faces.
Even some roster coordinators have chosen to leave the industry because they cannot perform miracles and make staff available for shifts when there is none.
Do you have problems with accessing PPE at work? Have you worked more than you should but feel you can’t say no to extra shifts? Are you a roster coordinator expected to fix staffing? Remember to use your union membership and contact HACSU, as some employers will just ignore the problem until they get that HACSU nudge to rectify issues.
HACSU has you covered.
If you need any more information, just give us a call on1300 880 032 or reply to this email.