Here’s your update on Tasmanian public sector and agency issues. With the borders open, and increasing cases being detected in the community, it’s vital that workers stick together and demand that our interests aren’t lost to the ‘new normal’.
An unimaginable Christmas
Last week we had a tragic event in our community that resulted in 6 young people losing their lives, and we offer our love, support and strength to their families and loved ones facing an unimaginable situation for Christmas, we just wish we could undo your loss.
Vale to Addison, Zane, Jye, Jalailah, Peter and Chace – you will live forever in the hearts of those who loved you most.
Any worker struggling since this tragedy should contact HACSUassist for advice about proper supports.
COVID escalation plans
Hospitals and other areas have developed COVID escalation plans now that borders are open and, with cases and exposure sites growing daily, we continue to discuss their preparedness.
We’re still concerned about adequate breakout spaces, and we’ll talk to members about taking action around safety if this remains left in the too-hard basket. If you’re being asked to take breaks in small areas with other workers, please let us know as soon as you can.
We’re not convinced adequate contingency resourcing is available if numerous health workers get COVID and can’t work, but let’s hope we never have to find out.
Your direct supervisor should be talking with you about the updated safety plan for your work area, if not please let us know your concerns.
We also want to know if you’re being told you’ll be restricted from working somewhere else now the borders are open, so if you’ve heard or been told this please get in touch.
We’ll continue with regular briefings and will pass on any info as soon as we can.
Taking leave because you’ve been affected by COVID
One of our main concerns has always been ensuring you get paid if you miss work because you’re sick or dealing with kids, household members, isolation or exposure due to COVID.
We’ve sought to put no-loss principles at the heart of the decisions made by the bosses – the official document outlining the various scenarios has been updated and can be found here.
If you feel you haven’t been dealt with in the appropriate way, please contact us.
Child safety case numbers and workloads are still way too high
Child safety workers continue to take steps to ensure their own health and safety, with the push and pull of cases being allocated or reallocated and cases being allocated to people who aren’t Child Safety Officers putting everyone under pressure.
We were happy to meet with them recently to find a way to address the issues that occur daily among those who support vulnerable kids, families and carers.
Case numbers are ballooning in advice and referral, there’s significant pressure for out of homecare workers to provide support to carers, and the constant churn of workers and broader recruitment issues are a real barrier to change.
Most importantly, we remain uneasy about workplace health and safety - if the agency can’t address chronic workload right now, the least they can do is ensure the dedicated workers who show up every day have the risks they face assessed and managed on an enduring basis.
Members have resolved to record all overtime, missed lunch breaks or other additional work, either by email or by claiming the time.
We’ll keep telling the community the real story about what’s happening, including the numbers of cases and families being allocated to people not employed as Child Safety Officers and the numbers flooding in the front door with seemingly nowhere to go.
If you work in Child Safety and are concerned about anything, please get in touch.
Is your fatigue being managed?
We’ve had an influx of calls about changes to PPE and other COVID safety concerns, but remember fatigue is also a major risk to health and safety and good decision making.
Your employer is legally responsible, as far as is reasonably practicable, to ensure your safety at work so if fatigue is identified, suitable control measures must be implemented in consultation with workers to minimise or eliminate the risk.
Key to this is ensuring your fatigue is managed appropriately, and an effective plan must include the following:
• Consultation with workers
• Regular breaks
• Rotating rostered breaks for those in areas where they’re required to don on and off
• Staying hydrated
• Regular rotating of tasks in areas that are hot and strenuous
• Providing the appropriate personal protective equipment
HACSU is committed to ensuring all workers have a safe workplace, so contact us on 1300 880 032 if you think your safety is being put at risk.
COVID-19 vaccine no fault injury scheme
The federal government recently announced a no-fault indemnity scheme for COVID-19 vaccination and, while full details are still being finalised, here’s what we know so far:
• The scheme became accessible on Monday 6 September and claims can be backdated to 21 February 2021 when the vaccine rollout officially commenced.
• It covers 3 serious adverse events -thrombosis with thrombocytopenia syndrome associated with AstraZeneca and myocarditis and pericarditis arising from Pfizer. It will likely cover any applicable serious events associated with future TGA approved vaccines but will not cover events from non-TGA approved vaccines.
• It indemnifies practitioners who administer the vaccination, where it’s followed by one of these serious events.
• It’s designed to streamline the process for claimants and avoid complex legal proceedings.
• For those who suffer a serious event following COVID-19 vaccination, the scheme will cover costs of injuries from$5000 and above. Between $5000 and $20,000 claimants must provide evidence of: the nature of the injury and medical documentation of its likely relationship to a COVID-19 vaccination; hospitalisation due to a vaccine-related injury of at least 1 night; medical costs and/or lost wages. Evidence requirements for claims $20,000 and above and claims relating to death are still being finalised.
• Claims relating to a death will not require evidence of hospitalisation. Next of kin can claim based on nervous shock and/or economic loss.
No cap on compensation has been announced, but it would be safe to assume there is one.
The scheme has so far been developed in consultation with select medical practitioners, insurance companies and business groups. Your national union office has written to Ministers Hunt and Cash requesting that we be included in further consultations, particularly as the details are still being developed and as we have members administering the vaccination and who are subject to vaccine mandates.
We’ll keep you updated as more information comes to hand.
Religious Discrimination Bill 2021
In the final sitting of Parliament for the year, the Prime Minister reintroduced the third iteration of the government’s religious discrimination Bill which, as part of a larger legislative package, was a Liberal Party election promise in response to the successful marriage equality plebiscite.
If successful, it will introduce sweeping freedoms for religious persons. We’re certainly not opposed to freedom of religion and religious expression, but we are concerned the Bill:
• Is overly complex, will override existing state and federal laws that currently protect against discriminatory statements and behaviours, and will confuse the operation of industrial legislation and WHS laws.
• Creates a hierarchy of freedoms, placing religious freedom over all other rights, including the right to healthcare and education.
• The ‘statement of belief’ provisions will allow discriminatory statements to be made ‘in a personal capacity’.
• Other regulatory bodies, such as AHPRA, are explicitly restricted from taking disciplinary action for discriminatory statements made by a member in a personal capacity, even if this breaches professional codes and compromises the care of a patient. eg if a registered physiotherapist tweets ‘God hates gay people’, and AHPRA receives a complaint after a patient sees it, AHPRA can no longer take any action.
• Employers will be able to implement discriminatory codes and, as long as they’re made publicly available, will not be able to be pursued for discrimination eg a care facility can implement a policy that they only hire people of Christian faith.
• The Bill will disproportionately affect already disadvantaged groups including women, people with disability, people from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds and LGBTQI+ persons.
There are two inquiries into the Bill being run – a restricted inquiry by the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Human Rights that is supported by the government, and a more fulsome inquiry by the Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs Legislation Committee, supported by the ALP, Greens and some of the crossbenchers.
Both committees are due to report by 4 February, in time for the first sitting period in the new year. The PM and Attorney-General have struggled to secure strong support from their own party and the ALP is likely to only seek amendments, and the national office of your union has written to targeted MPs and senators to understand their position on the Bill and any potential amendments.
We’ll keep you posted on developments.
Inform is your magazine
Inform is your union's official magazine, and the latest edition is jam packed with photos of members and events and plenty of useful and interesting articles. Get to know some of your delegates, meet new HACSU staff, get campaign updates and read some valuable info about workplace issues including diversity, superannuation, casual work, age discrimination and sexual harassment legislation changes. There’s something for everyone, and this issue has even more for those who work in aged care. Click here to read it now!
HACSU will be closed over the Christmas and New Year break.
Thanks for the amazing work you’re doing to support our community. All of us at HACSU wish you and your loved ones a safe and happy festive season. If you’re working, thankyou! If you’re not, we hope you can relax with the ones you love.
Our Hobart office will close at 11am and our Launceston office will close at 12pm on Friday 24 December. All offices will reopen as normal on Tuesday 4 January, but if you have a pressing matter call HACSUassist on 1300 880 032 and leave a message -we’ll respond to messages on Wednesday 29 December.
Some staff will be available to answer urgent questions from 27-29 December, so keep an eye out for more information over the break.
Be strong, take care and stay safe - we’re proud to represent you.