This newsletter provides you with an update on the issues across the Tasmanian public sector and your agencies on matters relating to management of the current COVID response and other issues relating to the broader public sector and union campaigns.
We know there is a lot going on and that there continues to be workload pressure for our members. We continue to highlight issues and resolve them as we can and we’ll keep you informed of what’s going on.
Members who work in allied health, nursing, personal care and a number of community service areas are covered by HACSU's professional indemnity and malpractice policy, and this coverage protects you against claims for loss, injury or damage arising from an act, error of omission in performance of your services. To make sure there are no issues with any claim, the policy requires that the insurer be notified as soon as possible that there may be a potential claim, even if nothing ever comes of it.
We are aware that at the moment a number of inquiries and investigations into various government services are occurring. If you are aware of any issue that may see you involved in any way, make sure you get in touch so we can offer you support and make sure that any potential claim is lodged with the insurers.
On 28 October, Minister Courtney announced that the emergency department at the Mersey Community Hospital will resume 24-hour operations on 30 November 2020. We’ve been told the recruitment of additional staff in the form of three permanent senior staff specialists and five long-term locums will make this possible, and they’ll work across the MCH and the NWRH.
You and your colleagues have been working harder and longer than usual due to the restricted operations, so it’s good to know that there is an end in sight. We’ve been assured the department will continue to work to recruit and retain the medical specialists and other workers required to ensure the services the north west needs are sustainable. Let’s hope the North West community isn’t left without this vital service ever again and that resourcing continues to be provided to meet the demand.
We've had a sharp increase in reports and calls from members about the increase of aggression and violence from patients and clients. We know the pandemic and the flow-on effects have put some real stress and pressure on many people in our community – but the increase of violence and threats, particularly to workers who visit patients and clients in the community, is unacceptable.
One of our main issues is that there seems to be a view amongst some managers that exposure to violence and threats just comes with the territory in some work areas. We reject that completely. Employers have a duty to provide a workplace free from risks, and where they know risks exist, they must do something to control those risks.
We've had reports of workers having their lives and families threatened with violence and worse, with workers having to retreat to vehicles and patients and clients engaging in various acts of actual physical violence against workers. This is not acceptable.
We know some essential training has had to be delayed due to the pandemic, but it’s time that arrangements are made so that any outstanding training, particularly de-escalation and safe engagement, isn't delayed any further.
We’ll also be getting around worksites that have reported this as an issue so we can start coming up with a plan to make sure these issues are addressed with the seriousness they require. For further info, please contact HACSUassist.
We know that for the vast majority of the time HACSU public sector members are at work, you’re busy supporting patients, clients and the broader community, and this means that despite the best efforts of organisers, we can sometimes keep missing the opportunity to catch up for a chat. We also know that during the pandemic a lot of staff and team meetings were postponed or unable to occur because of the restrictions.
As restrictions continue to ease, we are keen to get out and about and talk to as many of you as is possible and we need your help. We know that the majority of you at some point have staff or team meetings and we think that’s the perfect opportunity to catch up with everyone.
It might surprise you to hear but we sometimes get the feeling that some managers would prefer if we didn’t know when these meetings are on. If you have team meetings in your work area, we would like to know when, where and how often they happen. To let us know when your meeting is on or for further information, please contact HACSUassist.
We continue to have concerns raised relating to inconsistent application of the process for being paid when you're away from work because of something related to COVID-19. Ultimately, workers have been directed to be absent from the workplace until they return a negative COVID test.
Our position has been clear and consistent since the declaration of the pandemic. If a worker is directed to stay away from the workplace as a precautionary measure, then that worker is eligible for special pandemic leave. This includes if a worker presents for work as normal and is precluded due to screening. It would be a serious risk and a clear retrograde step if workers have an incentive to not be entirely honest during screening.
The other factors relating to SPL are as follows:
• If you are directed to self-isolate or stayaway from the workplace, you will be paid your regular salary without using your leave entitlements.
• If you are required to provide emergency support to children or a member of your household, you will be required to use your own personal leave entitlements. If you do not have a sufficient balance or you run out of personal leave, the agencies will accept an application for special pandemic leave.
• If you are unwell, including if you contract COVID-19, you will be required to use your own personal leave entitlements. If you do not have a sufficient balance or you run out of personal leave, the agencies will accept an application for special pandemic leave. Remember, you can make a claim for workers compensation if you contract any illness in the course of your duties, including COVID-19.
• If you are a casual or sessional worker and you are asked to self-isolate or stay away from the workplace, you will be paid for any shift you had already accepted and the agencies will accept an application for special pandemic leave.
• Payment for special pandemic leave will be your normal rate of pay and for casuals it will be based on regular hours (for casuals who work regular and systematic hours), or based on an average of the last two pay periods or based on the two pay periods that occurred prior to the declaration of a pandemic.
HACSU will continue to fight for arrangements to protect workers, especially health and community workers, who should not be disadvantaged by the pandemic.
The state government will hand down the budget next week, and we'll be there in the lock up to make sure we know as soon as we can what the plan is for the next 12 months. We know there will be a measurable amount of money around for infrastructure and we’re keen to see how health and community services will benefit from that funding. If you have any questions or information about the budget, please contact us at HACSUassist.
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Thanks for the amazing work you’re doing in this unprecedented and rapidly changing environment. Feel free to contact HACSUassist between 8am and 6pm Monday to Thursday and 8am–5pm on Fridays, about anything in this newsletter or any other issue you have, regardless of how small you feel your issue might be. Be strong, take care and stay safe – we’re proud to represent you.