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Paul Healey's letter to mental health members- September


Dear members, 

I would firstly like to thank you for your hard work during this COVID-19 pandemic. I am aware of the many challenges facing our members in mental health and am working tirelessly to address those issues. But even while these issues are still present in the workplace, your adversity in facing them has been remarkable, so thank you for that. 

You may have also seen that we are close to reaching 10,000 HACSU members. I want to thank you for all your contributions to our mighty union. Thank you for trusting us to fight for your rights in the workplace. Our next aim is to reach 20,000 members by 2028, so if you know anyone who would like to be a part of our union family, please encourage them to get in touch. 

It has been a very busy month in the mental health sector. Myself, HACSU Assistant State Secretary Kate Marshall and our team at HACSU have been working tirelessly to bargain for the new Mental Health Enterprise Bargaining Agreement (EBA). 

After reaching an impasse in negotiations, we were forced to order a Protected Action Ballot to take industrial action in the workplace. We needed to speed up the process to ensure you get the pay, conditions and security you deserve at work. Our members never shy away from a fight. Our preference is always not to have to use industrial action but we need to prepare all options in case negotiations fail. These ballots were sent out on September 21st by the Australian Electoral Commission, so you would have either received your ballot already or will receive it imminently. We need 100% of the vote to ensure your Mental Health EBA will be agreed upon sooner rather than later. Our staff are already in the process of texting and calling you to see if you have received your ballot, and to answer any questions you may have. Here are some landmark claims we are fighting for: 

  • Four-year agreement, with minimum wage increases of 4% per year over the life of the agreement and a further increase to wages in the first year of the agreement to achieve a work value equalisation. 
  • Introduction of a mental health allowance for all employees in the mental health workforce to recognise the special skills you have (whether acknowledged by tertiary qualification or not) and use in order to perform your duties, as recommended by the Productivity Commission's Inquiry into Mental Health. 
  • An increase in parental leave entitlement to 26 weeks paid. 
  • The inclusion and maintenance of all exisiting EBA and Award employment terms and conditions, and incorporation of all variations to former Award and test case provisions 
  • All services must commit to expand and implement environmentally sustainable business operations during the course of this agreement, through taking active and measurable steps to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and carbon based energy consumption. 
  • Introduction of Reproductive Health & Wellbeing Leave, and a Gendered Violence and Harassment clause. 
  • Introduction of an alternative disputes settling procedure, in the form of a Health Industry Disputes Panel, where union delegates can attend with pay. 
  • Superannuation contributions will be increased to 15% plus an additional 2% for female employees. 

We launched our Reproductive Health and Wellbeing Leave campaign on September 22nd and it was a great success. We had over 50 participants in attendance on Zoom, raising some important discussion points. We also had three guest speakers in Mary Crooks; CEO of Victorian Women's Trust, Karen Pickering; co-author of About Bloody Time and Tanja Kovac; CEO of Gender Equity Victoria, who all provided valuable knowledge and insight into this topic. I'd like to thank our guest speakers and everyone who attended the launch. I'd especially like to thank Tanja for assisting us in getting this campaign up and running. Her advice has been extremely valuable and will go a long way to ensuring our workers get the leave they deserve. 

The state of the mental health workforce is in crisis and we are working to fix this immediately. Some of the key stats from the Royal Commission's interim report into Victoria's mental health system highlight why we are taking these urgent steps to rectify the big issues existing in the sector, with a big one being the lack of beds in many area mental health services.

  • In 2018-19, 14% of people in inpatient units were readmitted within 28 days 
  • There are long waiting times in emergency departments; 58% of consumers wait for more than eight hours (the current Victorian standard for Emergency Department waiting times is eight hours). This leads to increased distress and behavioural problems, which can result in more restrictive practices. It also means that suicidal people can be left alone for long periods. 
  • There are currently more than 500 acute private mental health beds in Voctoria. However, private hospital beds are currently not permitted to take compulsory patients, so they can only relieve some of the pressure on the public system for those people who can afford to pay. 
  • More than two-thirds of submissions from the state's area metal health services have said they have insufficient acute beds to meet demand and that the bed availability crisis needs to be urgently resolved so that people can receive the appropriate treatment. 
  • The Commission's analysis shows that, in 2018-19, six area mental health services have said they have insufficient acute beds to meet demand and that the bed availability crisis needs to be urgently resolved so that people can receive the appropriate treatment. 
  • The Commission's analysis shows that, in 2018-19, six area mental health services have a bed-population ratio below the state average of 18.6 per 100,000, and most are on track to get worse by 2031-32 without additional acute beds. 
  • Analysis indicates that by 2031-32, in the absence of additional acute beds, Victoria will only have 15.5 acute adult beds per 100,000 people. 
  • In the interim, the Commission's analysis of forecast population growth and current and planned acute beds indicates that a minimum of 170 additional youth and adult acute inpatient beds are needed if Victoria is to merely maintain its current ratio of youth and adult acute beds until 2031-32. 

Following on from these statistics, we have been working closely with Mental Health Reform Victoria on these interim recommendations. Should any member have any questions about any of the above issues, please contact HACSU Assist on 9340 4100 or contact us via email at

A reminder that National Carers Week is coming up this month from 11-17 October. HACSU will be celebrating all of our carers and recognising them for their hard work. Stay tuned for further announcements on this. 

October also signifies Mental Health Month, and we are looking forward to recognising and celebrating all of our members who are doing important work in this space. Once again, stay tuned for further announcements on this. We are looking forward to it. 

In unity, 

Paul Healey

HACSU State Secretary