Today HACSU State Secretary Paul and Assistant State Secretary Kate, alongside other union leaders met with the Office of Minister for Health, Jenny Mikakos regarding the issues impacting HACSU members.
We were advised that whilst the measures being taken in Victoria are helpful, more time is needed to determine whether we’re seeing a ‘flattening of the curve’. Thanks to HACSU members for your diligent efforts in the fight against this virus.
It was noted today that more than 10% of the cases are health care workers, some of have contracted the virus during work, but most are those who have returned from overseas travel, or had been in close contact with someone who had the virus.
We have requested clarity about supplies of Flu Vaccines and will advise members when we have more information.
The recent release of DHHS guidelines from earlier this week have been found by employers to be difficult to interpret, in relation to specific areas of work. We have asked for the Minister’s office to provide more clarity, so that there is less room for interpretation that may place workers and clients at risk. We raised our concern that the guidelines are not being applied consistently and that they need to be more specific, especially in the mental health sector, where the guidelines seem to be related more to general acute inpatient units.
Any changes employers who wish to make changes must consult with the union prior to any changes occurring. Please get in touch with us if you see any changes that you don’t think we have been consulted on.
In terms of PPE; there are still supply issues, which the Minister’s office believes will continue for the foreseeable future. The Government is exercising all available options to get access to PPE, including specifically chartered flights; they are taking this issue very seriously. The Department continue to prioritise those workers who are most at risk, including in emergency departments and intensive care units. The Minister’s office is also taking stock across the state to ensure there is fair distribution. They are not recommending that masks are required for all client interactions.
We have raised the issue of PPE being available for mental health seclusion reviews, given the risk to clinical workers. The Minister’s office advised they are currently undertaking a review of seclusion methods, in light of COVID-19.
The Government has shown high levels of concern for healthcare workers and the increased risk of infection, so have increased the level of requirements for hospitals dealing with patients that have an unknown status and in high risk areas.
We have asked Minister’s office for a non-touch thermometer be made available at each and every disability house, and that temperatures are taken for everyone entering the house (workers, clients and visitors) prior to entry. If someone has a fever, they should not be in the workplace and should return home and seek medical advice in line with current policy.
We have also been in contact with mental health employers regarding changes to rostering. Workers are being encouraged to employ social distancing measures, including during handover. Members may be notified about roster variations in the coming weeks. No worker should be worse off; if you are concerned about these changes, please call HACSU as soon as possible on 1300 651 931.
Quotes from Kate Marshall, HACSU Assistant State Secretary in relation to today’s announcement of free childcare for all essential workers:
“Today’s announcement of free childcare for children of all essential workers is an extraordinary and highly necessary measure to ensure HACSU members can get to work, knowing their children are safe and well cared for.
This is also important for the thousands of low-paid workers who normally rely on grandparents, due to the high costs associated with childcare, who can’t at the moment because of the risk this virus poses to older Australians.
Being a proud single mother of two young girls, I know now that I can continue to focus on providing HACSU members with the best possible outcomes, while my girls are safe, secure and happily at play at their regular centre.
To HACSU members, and other union members across the country; know that this and other important measures recently announced to improve workers’ rights are outcomes of your strength and solidarity. We’re here, and our collective voice is being heard.”
Kate also spoke with officials from Health Services Union branches across Australia today about the Fair Work Commission’s recent proposal to vary 103 Modern Awards. The FWC is seeking to vary awards by including two weeks unpaid special leave for pandemics. HACSU does not agree with leave being unpaid and will writing a submission to that effect.
Gender Equity & Women’s organisations have united today on the impact of COVID-19. HACSU has been involved today in distributing a joint statement calling on Government to address the impact on women and gender diverse people, who are often already disadvantaged in our community and our workplaces. The statement was accompanied by a list of ten immediate asks for Government:
Finally, we wanted to share this lovely quote we received from a HACSU member today:
“I would like to thank all HACSU representatives for their hard work, dedication and members support, during the current unknown circumstances that await all. The impact COVID-19 has had in such a short time is devastating beyond measure.
During this time of hardship, all HACSU members I’m sure are grateful beyond measure, for the representatives who are endlessly advocating for immediate changes required and supports needed, to assist with job losses etc. in these distressing times.”
We again extend out thanks to all members who are on this journey with us. Times are tough but we have the collective strength of the union around us, and it keeps us pushing forward together.