It’s 2021 and we’ve got a big year ahead of us. This year, we turn our attention to fixing our Public Health Awards. Our Awards are broken and outdated, and HSU members have been at the mercy of this system for far too long. As we look to COVID recovery, we must remember who got us to safety and how our COVID heroes are faring after a long year of endless work.
HSU members have united to establish the ‘Let’s Get It Fixed’ campaign – a demand-based advocacy platform for public health staff to unite behind fairer wages and conditions, safer workplaces and secure employment. Public health members have spoken and have established campaign demands.
Campaign Platform and Demands
Negotiate Fair Wages
The Awards need to enable pay increases that reflect the value of the work that health workers do. A fair wage system considers claims for improvements and changes to conditions put forward by workers. The independent referee of our public wage system, the Industrial Relations Commission, needs to be able to freely consider these claims. There also needs to be a clearly defined wage progression procedure that is transparent and worker friendly.
Modernise Classification Structures
Awards need to be modernised to accurately reflect the duties, skills, underpinning knowledge and experience of all classifications. Our outdated awards system does not reflect modern training or professional standards, nor does it recognise the skills and responsibilities of modern health workers.
Promote a Safe Workplace
Health staff should only be expected to take on reasonable workloads. This can be achieved through correcting staffing levels to be in line with increases to population and demand, ensuring unfilled vacancies are filled promptly and addressing concerns regarding excessive workloads. Flexible work arrangements that promote fairness and support employees working from home are also integral for safe work practices.
Promote Permanent and Secure Employment
Health workers shouldn’t be forced into casualisation or short-term contracts. Part time workers should have clearer avenues to increasing their hours. Likewise, casuals should have more straightforward pathways to permanency. One of the most important ways workers can combat insecure work is to stand against the outsourcing and privatisation of health services. Government oversight and involvement in the employment of our health workers is essential, and we must ensure our health services always remain in public hands.
Ensure Conditions of Employment Meet Minimum Industry Standards
The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the need for modern leave policies. There are many public sector standards that simply are not incorporated into health worker awards.
Ensuring policies such as paid pandemic leave and 10-hour minimum shift breaks are incorporated into the awards.
Ensure Effective and Sustainable Delivery of Services for Regional, Rural and Remote NSW
Regional, rural and remote health workers in NSW have been ignored for too long. We need to attract and retain a diverse range of health workers to these locations for better health delivery.
The HSU is its members. It is the members that are constantly on the ground fighting for better wages and conditions, so it will be the members that shape this campaign. We have been asking members to endorse the campaign demands by signing our petition, and the response has been overwhelming. Over 3500 public health workers across hundreds of different worksites have already signed.
It is clear – health workers demand better wages and conditions. So, Let’s Get it Fixed!