Today at HACSU, Paul Healey, State Secretary and Kate Marshall, Assistant State Secretary met with Minister for Disability, Luke Donnellan’s office, and DHHS, in response to the letter we sent earlier this week. Worksafe was also in attendance.
Resulting from the meeting, we are now beginning to work through the issues contained in the letter and have developed a working document to actively work through these issues. Paul and Kate have fiercely advocated for members to ensure we can get some answers and responses very soon. We have also added further comments, as requested by members and we’ve advised the Minister’s Office, DHHS and Worksafe of which employers are doing the right thing and of those who aren’t, as yet. We’ll be tracking issues across the sector so that we can provide updates to the Minister’s office so please keep us informed of changes or risks at your workplace.
Regarding members who have raised concerns about your own autoimmune diseases or for those who have high-risk immediate family members with whom you live, we have raised these concerns with the Minister’s office. We want to assure you that you are heard and that your safety, and the safety of your families is of vital importance. We’ll provide you with further updates very soon.
Also raised was the importance of all workers getting access to provider IDs, to ensure access to prioritised supermarket shopping. Following members’ feedback on Facebook and via telephone, this issue has been agitated for again today with the Minister’s office.
We have also contacted the Disability Worker Exclusion Scheme (DWES) to discuss what options there may be to move to quickly finalise cases currently awaiting review, to free up workers to return to work, where possible and appropriate. We’ll keep you updated when we hear more about the outcome of this discussion.
With our Central Consultative Committee (CCC) going forward, HACSU officials will be working collaboratively with disability employers together with Worksafe who will also now be involved to address broad, provider-wide issues in the sector.
As some members may already be aware, we have received word that many workers who have accepted an Early Retirement Package (ERP), have offered to stay on for a period to support the workforce during the Pandemic. We have been in discussions with the Department and new providers about this. We have been advised late today that all those workers who have accepted an ERP will be offered to delay their exit date to 1 August 2020.
This includes all workers who have exit dates of April, May, June and July. If this affects you, you will either receive a phone call or letter offering to delay your exit date to 1 August 2020. If you do choose to delay your exit, this will also delay the payment of your ERP in line with the new exit date. Please be aware that you cannot be forced to delay your ERP. Whether or not you choose to stay on, is completely your choice.
If you have questions about this, please raise these when you are contacted by the Department. If you are concerned about something, or feel it is not right, please contact HACSU for advice.
Earlier today we heard from Farm Vigano, a disability employer, that the service has shut as of yesterday afternoon, due to two workers currently being tested for COVID-19. Farm Vigano is expecting test results to be available for these workers by Sunday.
Farm Vigano members, we hear your concerns and we have escalated this to the Minister’s office, DHHS and Worksafe as a high priority. We’re pushing for a response as soon as possible. There has been some concern raised that initially Farm Vigano had not communicated this to all workers. It is crucial that all workers who may have been exposed to workers being tested (or their networks) are to be strictly self-isolating. This is of critical importance and whilst we understand members may be anxious about this issue, we’re working through this and ask that for now you self-isolate as a priority if you believe you may have been exposed.
In the mental health sector, we’ve heard that some Lived Experience workers have been stood down due to lack of available work. We are following up this issue. If you are a Lived Experience worker and your workplace have made changes to your employment due to this virus, please contact HACSU Assist.
We are currently following up with Barwon Health in relation to the merging of their community teams. The issue has been escalated to the offices of the Chief Mental Health Nurse and Chief Psychiatrist.
For members working in the mental health sector, the Centre for Mental Health Learning is providing online training at the moment, with more training sessions being rolled out online. We recommend when you have some time, get onto their website to review online courses, some of which are free.
We’re working to ensure that all employers across the sector are aware of consultation provisions; employers must contact the union regarding redeployment of workers. We must be involved, as we usually are under normal circumstances, to ensure that redeployees are provided with safe working arrangements and that training and skills are up to date, guaranteeing best practice.