We support shorts: Sydney LHD members fight ridiculous uniform directive

Members at Concord and Royal Prince Alfred Hospitals have been continuing a fight against a ridiculous and arbitrary uniform directive that threatens not only their comfort, but their safety too.

The issue first came to notice in 2018, when members in the Physiotherapy Department at Concord Hospital found that they weren’t able to order or wear uniform shorts.

Far from an administrative error, the shorts shortage was reflective of a decision from on high.

With the support of the HSU, the campaign to save uniform shorts started in earnest. Stickers were distributed and were proudly worn by members who weren’t prepared to sacrifice their comfort and safety on a management whim.

Shortly afterwards, a memo was distributed to Environmental Services staff at RPA, indicating that members were to stop wearing shorts by February 2019. Members were outraged that senior management seemed neither to know nor care about what they did in their jobs – including the degree of mobility and safety granted by the uniform shorts.

The RPA HSU Sub Branch wasted no time, passing a resolution as follows:

This sub-branch:

  1. Notes that Sydney Local Health District has never enforced its Uniform Policy in a way that would prevent staff from wearing shorts in appropriate circumstances;
  2. Opposes any attempt to enforce the Uniform Policy to prevent staff wearing shorts;
  3. Considers that wearing shorts in many instances, is an appropriate measure to mitigate risks to health and safety of staff;
  4. Authorises its members to take any action, including an industrial ban on compliance with the Uniform Policy, to mitigate risks to health and safety;
  5. Requests that Sydney Local Health District review the Uniform Policy in consultation with the HSU as it was intended in 2016; and
  6. Requests that an Industrial Officer from the HSU communicate the contents of this motion to the Chief Executive of Sydney Local Health District.

In response, the LHD agreed to re-enter into an earlier abandoned uniform policy review. The HSU gathered feedback from members in support of shorts and other problematic areas of the policy (such as visible tattoos).

After one singular meeting, the LHD appeared to abandon its vendetta against uniform shorts. The HSU sought a response to the feedback provided, but none was forthcoming, beyond a vague acknowledgement that it had been received. Meanwhile, members at RPA continued to wear shorts, protected by the resolution which they had voted on.

In September this year, members at Concord Hospital began to notice the return of memos threatening an end to shorts. The Sub Branch held an extraordinary meeting and passed a very similar resolution to the one that was passed at RPA.

Members stand ready to defend their rights to a comfortable and safe work uniform. It’s clear that this inappropriate and arbitrary decision has been undertaken by senior management alone, with little reference to the needs or wishes of members performing their jobs day after day. Management’s personal preference or taste shouldn’t come into it.

The message from members is, come down from your ivory tower and we’ll show you just how necessary shorts are!