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Media release: Victorian mental health workers forced to call a statewide stop work.


The Health and Community Services Union (HACSU) is today announcing major industrial action across Victoria’s public mental health services. 


After two years of ongoing industrial action—and two and a half years of bargaining—HACSU members are stopping work on Thursday March 17 between 11 AM and 2 PM. Mental health staff in Melbourne will be rallying at Victorian Trades Hall, Carlton, as workers across the state walk off at 11 AM. 16 area mental health services, as well as Forensicare, will be taking action. 


This is not an action that mental health workers want to take. 


HACSU has been pushing to finalise the Public Mental Health Services Enterprise
Agreement for months. The Victorian Hospitals’ Industrial Association (VHIA) promised the mental health workforce that a finalised agreement would be provided to all parties by 5 PM, Friday March 4. 


This deadline was missed. 


The union has found that the VHIA and the Department of Health have no sense of urgency in finalising the agreement.  
This inaction comes as the mental health workforce continue to bear the brunt of the Victoria’s emerging mental health crisis, with reporting in The Age in January finding that the system was in “crisis” — entirely dependent on overtime, chronically understaffed, with workers working in full PPE and at times at risk to their health and safety. 


$2.4 billion has been put into the system by the Victorian Government; funding new programs, investing in skills and training, and investing critical capital works initiatives. While we welcome such investments, there is no mental health reform without the mental health workforce. 


The mental health workforce—from mental health nurses and lived experience workers, to social workers and occupational therapists, to admin workers and allied services—have not had a pay rise since 2019. 


Quotes attributable to Paul Healey, HACSU State Secretary
“The current bargaining system for health in Victoria does not work. Failure to resolve the enterprise agreement and to have the flow on of wages and conditions, is stopping recruitment and retention at the very time that we need it the most.”  
“We’re appealing directly to James Merlino, to stand up for mental health workers and step in to force the VHIA to finalise the agreement—and implement long-overdue pay increases—as a matter of urgency.”
Media Contact: Stephanie Thuesen, 0436 363 612 or 
Click here to download this release as a PDF.