Public sector newsletter

Posted on
May 25, 2020
Public Sector

Your fortnightly union update

This week we've seen some of the community restrictions around COVID-19 ease, and this is a positive development and a real result of the hard and committed work of health and community workers in particular.

We’ve been concerned that some level of complacency has begun to creep in and have seen the reminders managers have given workers about the need to ensure all the relevant measures are taken, including physical distancing, ensuring there aren't many people in enclosed spaces, exercising proper hand hygiene and utilising PPE as per the training and advice - we fully support these measures - but we'll always stand up for workers if they tell us the expectations on them are unreasonable or unachievable.

When the pandemic was first declared we wrote to the relevant ministers to get some relief from parking fees for health workers. and we raised it with the minister again on the weekend but we haven't had a response - kudos to Hobart City Council, who we understand have provided some relief in their car parks, but we want the government to do the same in theirs.

We haven't really asked for much for our members outside the usual industrial protections during this pandemic, and we think being able to park in empty car parks for free was a pretty easy one, but this only motivates us to do more than ever to ensure members are supported and represented.

Without public sector health and community workers' commitment, it’s unimaginable to think what the situation might be, and HACSU's working hard to ensure everyone has a safe workplace, especially during this global pandemic, and we’re committed to ensuring advice is applied and heeded consistently and we’re committed to ensuring the real heroes aren’t forgotten through any of this.

We thank every worker for the sacrifices they continue to make and the risks they continue to take to care for us all - it’s clear that when the chips are down they're the people we can rely on - be strong, take care and stay safe!


COVID-19 and workplace safety regulations

Work Health & Safety Amendment Regulations (2020), and these safety plans must be completed by 15 June and will include guidance on social distancing in office spaces, shared areas and communal staff areas.

These are the minimum standards, not a beacon to aspire to.

The main issue is that, as with all things workplace health and safety, the employer must consult with workers about any control measure related to risk.

Expert advice must be heeded and what happens in a member's work area depends on their job, but the bottom line is there should be additional safeguards to protect staff from transmission of the virus no matter what the workplace is - there should also be measures to make sure staff are coping with the extra stress of this situation.

Members who want further info, or who are concerned that a plan's been imposed without input from the workers, please contact HACSUassist or their organiser.


Nurses & Midwives Agreement registered, award varied 

We recently appeared in the Tasmanian Industrial Commission to register the latest Nurses and Midwives Agreement.

The new agreement contains a range of improvements, and the main ones are:  

•  Salary increases on 1 December every year from 2019 – 2022

•  Additional top increments in Grades 3, 4, 5, 6, 7a and 7b

•  Increase to the professional development fund

•  Overtime rates for day workers in specific units named in the agreement

•  A defined career pathway for Tasmanian midwives and nurses

At the same hearing, the parties agreed to some award variations - in short, the variation captured a range of matters and made them part of the award, and these centre around the improvements we won together during the recent bargaining round.

The variations include:  

•  Additional superannuation benefits for workers on parental leave and workers compensation

•  The insertion of provisions from the agreement that relate to in-charge, meal, post graduate and rural & remote allowances

•  Two meal breaks for 12-hour shifts

•  Improved parental leave

The final matter dealt with at the hearing was the registration of the Caseload Midwifery Agreement that provides for a range of improvements for midwives employed as caseload midwives.

Tasmanian public sector workers are the first workers in Australia to knock off a government wages policy without changing the government and should be really proud of that, but we know more is needed for nurses and midwives in all sorts of services across the state, and we know they're working even harder than usual as we respond to the pandemic.

We’ll have some more info soon on how long back pay will take and we’ll get that out as soon as we can.


COVID-19 and leave entitlements 

This week, assistant state secretary Robbie Moore appeared at a parliamentary inquiry into the state’s pandemic response, in particular our concerns about members having to access their own leave entitlements when they may have been entitled to special pandemic leave.

Robbie called on the government to make special pandemic leave uncapped and raised concerns that it remains unclear whether applications for additional pandemic leave would be granted.

As a matter of standing by their previous commitments to workers, head of the state service Jenny Gale backed Robbie’s sentiments and confirmed she would be looking into the leave taken across the state service and providing clarity to agencies who may have misunderstood the provisions of special pandemic leave.

We stand by our previous advice to members about personal leave entitlements and workers’ rights relating to COVID-19.

If anyone has any concerns about any advice they get in the workplace, particularly if it contradicts advice from public health officials, please contact us.


We will get COVID-19 questions answered 

We’ve received an influx of calls about personal protective equipment and concerns for general safety given the current status of COVID-19, and reports include concerns that in some areas there's no official screening process in place to ensure staff and visitors aren't presenting with symptoms. 

Some workers are concerned they haven't received any formal PPE training and they’re unsure of the requirements when in different zones and whether they’re able to adequately social distance in some areas. 

HACSU ensures that all workers have a safe workplace and that staffing levels and PPE are sufficient to keep them safe, and we’ve raised these issues formally with the COVID response team and we will get back to members as soon as we can once they respond. 

We understand that everyone's working harder than ever to ensure patients are being cared for.


HACSU supports members 

Thanks for the amazing work members are doing in this unprecedented and rapidly changing environment. 

Feel free to contact HACSUassist between 8am and 8pm Monday to Friday regardless of how small an issue might seem. 

Please take care.

For more information about this or any other industrial matter, members should contact HACSUassist on 1300 880 032 or email or complete our online contact form

Public Sector