Last week the Andrews Government finally reacted to our escalating Protect Disability Care campaign in the Northcote by-election and other marginal seats around Victoria.
As a consequence, the Government entered into high-level discussions with the union, discussions which included the Treasurer, the Premier's office, the Minister for Disability Services and the Special Minister of State. HACSU was supported by Trades Hall and other Victorian union leaders.
This is a key sign of progress. For the first time since privatisation was announced almost two years ago, the union and the Government are having serious discussions about the future of Victorian public disability services.
After three days and nights of discussions, the Government agreed to four weeks of intensive negotiations chaired by former Fair Work Commissioner, Julius Roe.
The Government agreed that if these negotiations result in an in-principle settlement by the 27th of November, that it would give all DHHS workers a 3% interim pay increase and a $1000 lump-sum payment (pro-rata for part-time workers).
This would be in recognition of the delays in finalising a replacement EBA and would be an effective “down-payment” on any final EBA, noting that the union’s claim is for 5% wage increases per year (20% over four years).
As a result of these commitments, HACSU agreed to suspend the planned rally at Northcote. However, we did not agree to suspend the whole campaign. Radio ads continue to run across regional Victoria, posters went up in Northcote over the weekend and all protected action bans remain in place.
Further, we have made clear to Government that unless these discussions produce a settlement that protects job security and the quality of care for residents, we will escalate our campaign.
Despite all of the work the union has done in proposing alternatives to privatisation, it is clear that the Government remains hell-bent on contracting out public disability services. Given this, we ask members to pay close attention to future union communications and be ready to support rapid on-ground action in Northcote and elsewhere in full force.
We understand this has been a long and frustrating process for members, but this is a dispute about the future of our whole sector - the future of the next generation of workers and the future of the quality of care of residents - so we have to stand ready to fight some more.
HACSU State Secretary
Assistant State Secretary