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Home >News >HACSU resolutions see success at Victorian Labor Party's State Conference

HACSU resolutions see success at Victorian Labor Party's State Conference

2024-05-20

At the State Conference of the Victorian Labor Party, HACSU members’ demands for critical changes have been heard loud and clear.

HACSU delegates attended the State Conference over the weekend in Moonee Ponds, raising a number of resolutions to be voted on by the Victorian Labor Party membership. HACSU members championed the need for increased funding for the mental health system, robust support for the disability workforce, essential industrial reforms for working women, and the advancement of medical manufacturing for next-generation mental health treatments. Our calls for the establishment of a worker-run rehab, improvements in workplace safety, and urgent measures to address youth homelessness and mental health issues were also front and centre. We didn’t stop there; calling for the legalisation of cannabis and more.

Every urgency resolution we put forward was passed, with the Conference backing every motion from HACSU members. This is a testament to the strength and unity of our voices.

HACSU delegates also supported several significant resolutions from other unions and activists, including calls to abolish the public sector wages policy, empower disabled Victorians, and adopt harm reduction strategies in drug law reform.

Read the resolutions below:

Supporting the Disability Workforce
Resolution 24

That State conference resolves that it calls on the Allan Labor Government to work with unions and stakeholders to:

  1. Work with the Federal Government on a national worker registration scheme and/or an expansion of the Victorian Disability Worker Commission (VDWC).

  2. Make active representations to the sector jobs and skills council:
    a. supporting a revision of the Certificate IV in Disability Support
    b. to reinstate a funded Advanced Diploma in Disability, and make it accessible through fee-free TAFE

  3. Establish and fund:
    a. meaningful career progression within the disability sector to recruit, attract and retain disability support workers.
    b. training, professional development, and supervision for Victorian disability support workers
    c. full-pay entry traineeships and higher apprenticeships for disability support workers in collaboration with the federal government,
    d. currently-existing accredited diplomas above the Certificate IV (e.g. the Diploma of Leadership in Disability Services)

  4. Halt the proposed merger of The Office of the Disability Services Commissioner including the position of Commissioner and the Victorian Disability Worker Commission.

  5. Implement foundational and mainstream supports within the NDIS that are State funded.

Moved: Kate Marshall HACSU
Seconded: Angela Carter HACSU

Background

The 2016 Victorian Inquiry into the disability sector, highlighted the need for urgent reform for the disability workforce. It notes that disability workers are some of the lowest paid workers in the care sector. This has only amplified with the introduction of the National Disability Insurance Scheme, which has severely limited access to professional development, training, and supervision to assist workers in their complex and deeply empathetic work.

The Victorian Skills authority has made special mention of the fact that Victoria desperately needs more disability workers in the next three years, and the National Skills Agreement and Jobs and Skills Roadmaps call out the care and support economy as a priority workforce. It is a matter of urgency that this workforce is bolstered, professionalised, increases job security, and well supported. Disability support workers are tasked with working in complex and challenging environments with little assistance due to funding constraints and predatory pop-up providers not subject to regulation.

Stabilising the Mental Health Sector and Delivering on the Promises of the Royal Commission into Victoria’s Mental Health System.
Resolution 26
That State Conference resolves that the Allan Labor government:
  1. Uplift the funding for all mental health beds across the state. As it stands, old beds in outdated wards are funded at a rate of $880.00 and new beds are funded at a rate of $1640.00. Services have indicated that is costs $1800 to run a bed per day.

  2. All positions fully funded and ongoing to provide stability and retention.

  3. The re-instatement of brokerage funds at all hospitals to ensure workers have the capacity to financially help patients when they need it most.

  4. The halt of activity-based funding. Many hospitals are losing funding because they are not hitting KPIs, and they are not hitting KPIs because they are extremely understaffed.

  5. A guarantee that all EBA outcomes are fully funded.

  6. The introduction of staffing profiles across all bed-based and community mental health settings akin to staff to patient ratios to ensure health and safety and best outcomes for consumers and their families.

Moved: Paul Healey HACSU
Seconded: Christy Cain MUA

Background

Conference notes that the overall spend on the Victorian mental sector has resulted in a 12% cut since the recommendations of the Royal Commission into Victoria’s Mental Health System was announced.

Many promises made by the Allan Labor government have been incorrectly or deceptively rolled out by the department, particularly in terms of funding. For example, as part of the 2022 State election the Andrews Labor government announced that the mental health workforce would be doubled over a 10-year period and that positions would be fully funded across the sector. Upon rollout, hospitals were informed that only one year of the position would be funded entirely by the department, with no funding uplift allocated to hospitals resulting in many services opting not to take them on. Instances like this are riddled throughout the entirety of the mental health sector.

Occupational Violence has always been a concern throughout the mental health sector. Unfortunately, there has been a sharp increase in the rates of patient-to-clinician and patient to-patient occupational violence often leaving HACSU members in extremely dangerous situations.

This becomes incredibly dangerous, particularly if units and teams are understaffed and burnt out. Mental health workers are far too often put in positions that compromise their safety, often due to a lack of staff and available resources.

Progressive Industrial Reform for Working Women
Resolution 27

That State Conference resolves that the Allan government introduce the following measures in the public sector:

  1. A 12-day reproductive health and wellbeing leave entitlement for all public sector workers inclusive of pregnancy loss.

  2. Superannuation paid on all paid or unpaid maternity leave.

  3. Superannuation paid on the day that it is earned immediately.

  4. Flexible working arrangements and alterations to the workplace if required (particularly in acknowledgement of heating/cooling arrangements)

  5. A 21-day family violence leave clause that can be used in tandem with all other leave entitlements and can be utilised flexibly to give victims choice.

Moved: Kate Marshall HACSU
Seconded: Nicole McPherson FSU

Background

Conference commits to working tirelessly to make progressive industrial reform for working to make their working lives easier. For many women, small adjustments to working arrangements that assist in accessing treatment, alleviating symptoms associated with reproductive issues or flexible working arrangements in relation to caring responsibilities, can improve women’s working lives without the need for employees to take extra leave.

Measures that enhance gender equality by removing the social and financial barriers to working women will increase female participation in the workplace and will ensure that women can remain employed longer if they choose.

Supporting Doctors in Training to support a world-class health system.
Resolution 23
The State Conference resolves that:
  1. The Allan Labor Government should advocate for the stamping out of wage theft of Victorian Doctors in Training.

  2. Victorian Labor Supports Victorian Doctors in Training being paid for their overtime in accordance with their entitlements;

  3. And that the unpaid class actions commenced by Victorian Doctors in Training should be resolved.

Moved: Paul Healey HACSU
Seconded: Michael Watson ETU

Background

Conference notes that junior doctors have commenced class action proceedings against Victorian health services seeking compensation for unpaid un-rostered overtime, last year the Federal Court of Australia ruled in favour of junior doctors in a class action lawsuit against Peninsula Health, despite this the class actions continue.

Junior doctors are fatigued and burnt out, overworking and underpayment is a systemic problem that continues to put Victorian patients at risk and threatens the welfare of junior doctors. Junior doctors, like all hospital & healthcare workers deserve fair pay and conditions.

Last month the NSW Government settled a class action alleging junior doctors were underpaid in overtime. Despite this, Victorian Public Health Services continue to push junior doctors to defend their right to safe working conditions.

In the last 12 months 93% of Victorian junior doctors have experienced burnout, and 94% fear making a clinical error due to fatigue. Urgent action is required to improve the wellbeing of doctors and subsequently their patients as well.

Immediate implementation of the 2022 State Election Commitment “Supporting Workers through Alcohol and Other Drug Issues”
Resolution 31/117

State Conference resolves that:

  1. Before the meeting of next State Conference, the Allan Labor government urgently commence creating a worker-led, purpose-built centre for alcohol and other drugs rehabilitation, outpatient support and outreach, as promised under the funded election commitment “Supporting Workers through Alcohol and Other Drug Issues”, in partnership with the union movement, many employers in support, and with organisations in the public alcohol and other drugs sector.

Moved: Tony Mavromatis (AMWU)
Seconded: Paul Healey (HACSU)

Background

This occurs because all public inpatient units in Victoria have long rehabilitation treatment times (usually between 3 and 18 months) and massive waiting lists (up to 12 months) due to a lack of available public rehabilitation beds. While the Victorian trade union movement acknowledge the work of the Andrews Labor Government in more than doubling the amount of public rehab beds available, that still only brings the State total to 532.
Employers and trade unions are not equipped to navigate the overwhelmed public and private systems when a member or their family require urgent assistance with an addiction. The lack of accessible and affordable treatment options for working people and their families, is negatively impacting all Victorian workplaces.

As it stands and out of desperation, many Victorian unions are opting to put union members and their families on planes to access the one worker-led rehabilitation service in Australia, Foundation House in NSW. We note that for the past 12 months over two thirds of the intake of patients have been Victorian workers. The Victorian union movement note that this commitment should be initiated by the government in partnership with unions who have indicated their support including the AMWU, HACSU, AWU, UWU, TWU, CFMEU, TPAV, SDA, MSAV, VPA, FSU, PPTEU, MEAA, ETU, CWU, AEU, ASU, CPSU, RTBU, MUA, HWU, AHP, VAHPA and all Victorian trades and Labour Councils and the State’s most respected public drug, alcohol and gambling rehabilitation provider Odyssey House as a trial called The Crossing, in honour of the Westgate Bridge Disaster.

We note that support have been given by the Australian Council of Trade Unions, the majority of the Victorian Labor Party Caucus, a plethora of Federal Labor MPs and the Victorian crossbench.

The Victorian workforce simply cannot wait.

Medical Manufacturing Innovation for the Mental Health Sector
Resolution 115

State Conference resolves to action the 2023 State Conference motion to invest in medical manufacturing for the mental health sector.

That State Conference resolves that:

  1. Urgent action must be taken to give effect to Resolution 26 of the 2023 State Conference, to invest in medical manufacturing for the mental health sector.

  2. Relevant Ministers, industrial partners including HACSU and the AMWU, shall establish the Neuromedicines Discovery Centre, in partnership with Monash University, the University of Melbourne and the Florey Institute, the country’s first advanced medical research, development, and manufacturing venture for neuromedicines including MDMA and psilocybin.

  3. The Victorian Labor branch recognises that such investment will support the recommendations of the Royal Commission, Victoria’s Made in Victoria Plan and Victorian consumers, carers, and their families.

  4. The Victorian Labor branch recognises the importance of domestic manufacturing of vital medicines, vaccines, and medical devices and the importance of immediate research and innovation in the mental health sector to assist the mental health workforce in treating debilitating disorders such as eating disorders and post-traumatic stress disorder.

  5. Conference acknowledges that by supporting these organisations to establish the Neuromedicines Discovery Centre, Victoria will truly be leading the way in mental health innovation, it will create a plethora of jobs in the manufacturing sector, and will take much needed pressure off the mental health workforce.

Moved: Paul Healey HACSU
Seconded: Tony Piccolo AMWU

Social Cohesion
Resolution 99

State Conference recognises that in our multicultural society, social cohesion is a vital national asset which can’t be neglected, much less undermined.

Australians strongly value cultural diversity and want to feel safe and free in Australia to express who they are, including in relation to their faith and heritage.

That State Conference resolves that

  • There is no place in Australia for antisemitism, Islamophobia, anti-Palestinian racism or any form of hate speech;

  • Communities and individuals must remain respectful and compassionate in the face of continuing conflict and international tensions;

  • It strongly condemns all acts of violence and hatred;

  • There is no place in Australia for prejudice or hatred of any kind.

Moved: Paul Healey HACSU
Seconded: Michael Myles CFMEU

United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA)
Resolution 127

That State Conference resolves that the Federal Labor Government:

  • Recognises the essential role of aid workers and seek to ensure their safety at all times;

  • Commit to ongoing annual funding for UNRWA;

  • Increase aid funding for UNRWA to safeguard the viability of its protection and humanitarian programs in a manner that promotes and respects the rights of Palestinian refugees;

  • Take necessary steps to protect UNRWA’s mandate by the UN General Assembly as the principal Agency in which international aid is delivered for the humanitarian assistance and protection of Palestinian refugees;

  • Reaffirm the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people and help safeguard and advance the rights of Palestinian refugees.

Moved: Imogen Sturni ASU Private
Seconded: Paul Healey HACSU

Background

UNRWA has a humanitarian and development mandate from the UN General Assembly to provide assistance and protection to Palestinian refugees pending a just and lasting solution to their plight. It is the responsibility of the Australian Government to assist the international community in finding that solution.

Merged Resolution on WorkCover
In light of reforms to the WorkCover scheme – Merge Resolutions:

29. Picking up the pieces of the WorkCover Modernisation Bill 2023 for Victorian workers (HACSU),  
37. WorkCover motion (HACSU), 
65. WorkCover, 
116. Picking up the pieces of the WorkCover Modernisation Bill 2023 for Victorian workers (HACSU), 
25. Creation of specialist Worksafe inspectors in the care and support sectors (HACSU), and
62. OH&S

Resolution

That State Conference resolves that:

  1. Undertake genuine collaboration and consultation with all trade unions to implement prevention and early intervention measures including unions. Work with public sector unions to develop mental health support, training and materials for public sector employees.

  2. Immediate release and implementation of the Psychological Occupational Health and Safety Regulations with appropriate resources allocated to enforce them as promised to be used in tandem with the Occupational Health and Safety Act 2004.

  3. Review Part 8 of the Occupational Health and Safety Act 2004 and the Right of Entry Powers of Permit Holders. Include the addition of a permit holder’s right to issue a Provisional Improvement Notice, streamline legal entry facilitation, and provide unions with the right to launch a prosecution should WorkSafe fail to, bringing Victoria in line with South Australia.

  4. Fully cost all interventions within an EBA so that public sector employers can implement interventions/services and make them available for employees to promote mentally healthy workplaces.

  5. WorkSafe Executive Leadership will provide WorkSafe Inspectors with the necessary supports, tools and resources required to understand the unique challenges of health and safety matters in different industries and establish specialised, sector-specific Inspectorial roles within teams to conduct workplace inspections and enforce health safety and wellbeing legalisation and regulations effectively in the interest of working Victorians.

  6. That the Victorian government immediately honour their commitment to refer the bullying jurisdiction to the Commonwealth so workers in the public sector have access to the Fair Work Commission for bullying issues in the workplace.

  7. Full implementation of the Rozen Review

  8. Examine in depth the cause(s) of injuries that lead to long term claims and identify interventions that government should take to address them.

Moved: Paul Healey HACSU
Seconded: Ronnie Hayden, AWU

Background

The Government regressive changes to WorkCover result in workers with legitimate work related mental injuries unjustly denied compensation. The emphasis on traumatic events as the predominant cause of mental injury overlooks the impact of chronic stress, toxic work environments, or other non-traumatic factors that contribute to mental health issues. As a result, workers who have developed mental injuries such as work-related stress or burnout due to ongoing workplace conditions are to be denied the compensation.

The new definition requiring significant behavioural, cognitive, or psychological dysfunction limits the scope of what can be considered a “mental injury”, in affect excluding most workers claiming compensation for mental health issues. These changes only result in hardship for injured workers and transfer the cost to the already strained hospital system. Conference notes that the government encouraged working people to put in psychological health claims to get a full picture of the state of mental health across Victorian workplaces.

This was in line with Royal Commission into Victoria’s Mental Health System Recommendation 16 entitled Establishing Mentally Healthy Workplaces. We note that that further work is needed on this recommendation and the mental health of Victorian workplaces has deteriorated.

Housing for Young People and Young Families to Thrive
Resolution 30/118

That State Conference resolves that it supports the following:

  1. That the Victorian Labor Government immediately commence work on the 2022 State conference motion “Housing for Youth People and Young Families to Thrive” and support the tri-partisan efforts between service delivery providers, employers and trade unions to create affordable youth housing with on-site wrap-around support services and employment opportunities in key industries.

  2. That the Victorian Labor government assist these efforts by identifying land and providing funding to build the service.

  3. That the Victorian Labor government provide funding for a trial period to test the efficacy of collaborative partnerships with between a major metropolitan mental health service, a youth housing service, Jobs Victoria and industrial partners.

Victorian Labor applauds the incredible efforts of the Andrews’ Labor government in its landmark investment in social and affordable housing by way of the $5.3 billion Big Housing Build, to deliver 12000 new dwellings across Victoria over a 10-year period.

While this investment is a notable step forward in creating a society in which all people have access to a safe and affordable place to live and thrive, significant shortfalls remain for disadvantaged and vulnerable young people and young families seeking housing or accommodation. Since announced in November 2020, targeted investment of housing for young people, has been a mere .94% of the total Big Housing Build investment.

This is of grave concern to disadvantaged young people, community leaders, youth homelessness and community service delivery providers, mental health workers and trade unions. The youth age group, between 16 and 24 years old, is the least supported to overcome disadvantage, trauma and homelessness. Over 23% or 28,204 young people aged 12-24 years across Australia were counted in the 2021 Census, as being without a home. Add the numbers of young people who are not captured in reported data who are at risk of or experiencing homelessness and the figure is likely to be double. Furthermore, young people only hold 2.9% of social housing tenancies and cycle back into emergency homelessness services up to 10 times other age groups.

As it stands service delivery providers are unable to cope with demand, general and specialist health services are often left no choice but to discharge vulnerable young people and their children, to homelessness. There are no State-wide mechanisms to assist young people into stable employment with the support of the trade union movement.

Moved: Paul Healey HACSU
Seconded: Tony Piccolo AMWU

Legalisation of Recreational Cannabis and State-Owned Cannabis Distribution
Resolution 28/123

That this State Conference resolves that:

  1. Cannabis should be legalised, taxed and licenced and owned and/or regulated by the Victorian State government.

  2. The funds generated by a legalised/regulated cannabis industry should be used to fund recommendations of the Royal Commission into Victoria’s Mental Health System, the reform of the Alcohol and Other Drugs sector, reform of Workcover and WorkSafe, Health-led housing, Indigenous health, and form part of the State contribution to the National Disability Insurance Scheme.

  3. That a progressive, health-led approach to workplace drug testing must be implemented particularly to ensure that workers who have been prescribed medicinal cannabis are not unfairly persecuted.

  4. That a state-owned and/or regulated cannabis sector would provide fantastic job opportunities in manufacturing, cultivation, health, and mental health. Labor notes increasing use of cannabis for medical, industrial, and other purposes. At the 2023 Federal Labor conference it was resolved that matters of domestic cannabis regulation and law reform are best handled at a state and territory level and does not support measures at the federal level that would block effective regulation by states and territories.

  5. That the party should commence work with the relevant industrial partners including the AMWU, CFMEU Manufacturing, HACSU and UWU as part of any steps to progress this work.

  6. That the Victorian Labor government must stop funding criminals and start funding health and by legalise and invest in a state-owned and/or regulated cannabis sector.

Moved: Paul Healey HACSU
Seconded: Tony Piccolo AMWU

Background

Experts estimate that the annual production of cannabis has a wholesale value of between $1.2 billion and $8 billion making it the state’s most lucrative illicit industry. Serious organised crime syndicates are using a large part of this lucrative illegal profit to buy and import other drugs, inevitably creating extensive damage to individuals, their families, and our health and emergency services workforces.

Supported by HACSU — Public Sector Wages Policy

That State Conference resolves,

Noting that the Victorian Public Sector Wages Policy has been used by the Victorian Government to suppress the wages’ growth of tens of thousands of Victorian workers during a cost-of-living crisis; and,

The policy unfairly limits the scope of bargaining which is otherwise set out in federal legislation which all other organisations are required to follow; and,

It also creates unfair and uneven playing fields for workers within the same industry resulting in disparity between private sector and public sector wages growth; and,

It is used to undermine the ability of workers to bargain, leads to unnecessary conflict and hampers transparent and good faith negotiations with government corporations.

That Victorian Public Sector Wages Policy is unacceptable and instructs the relevant ministers to repeal the current policy and discontinue its use for any future enterprise agreement bargaining.

Supported by HACSU — Nothing About Us, Without Us, People with Disability having a say from the Start.
Resolution 94

That State Conference Resolves that:

  1. People with disability play a critical role in the creation of laws, policies, and other decisions that affect their lives, and embrace the principle of “nothing about us, without us”.

  2. Authentic co-design involves the active participation of people with disabilities from the beginning of the policy-making process, rather than treating their input as merely a consultative afterthought.

  3. It is in support of the disability rights sector, and recognises the concerns voiced by this sector regarding the misuse of the term ‘co-design’, wherein processes labeled as ‘co-design’ are merely consultative, lacking genuine collaborative effort.

  4. Where there is legislation or policy that affects people with disability, true co-design will occur ‘with’ people with disability, not ‘for’ them. This includes involving people with disability and experts in all stages of the process, from validating research to brainstorming and developing ideas and testing them in real-world scenarios.

  5. It calls on the Victorian and Federal Government to commit to genuine co-design by ensuring that people with disability and their representative organisation are integral to every decision-making process from the outset.

Background

The urgency of this motion stems from growing concerns within the disability advocacy sector regarding governmental actions in disability-related legislation and policy. Despite commitments to co-design, recent practices reveal a deviation towards mere consultation, or at times, no community engagement at all.

This has been notably apparent with the decision to abolish disability specific regulators (the Disability Services Commission, The Disability Worker Registration Board, and the Victorian Disability workers Commission) and merge them into a new ‘super’ regulator (the Social Services Regulator). This was done with no consultation of the Disability Rights Sector, nor with the disability community as a whole, undermining the principles of genuine co-design. This is of particular concern to the community, as these changes will have significant effects on the protections and safety of people with disability in Victoria, and the Victorian Government has still yet to respond to Disability Rights Organisations regarding their concerns.

As legislative activities intensify at both state and federal levels, it is crucial that the government upholds its promise to the disability community by implementing true co-design. This entails involving people with disabilities from the onset of policy-making and throughout the entire process, ensuring that their voices are not only heard but integrated into the fabric of legislative outcomes. The principle of "nothing about us, without us" must be a reality, not just a rhetoric.

Supported by HACSU — Implementation of Harm Reduction as a Cornerstone of Compassionate Drug Law Reform

That State conference resolves that: 

  1. to note the success of the medically supervised safe injecting room located in North Richmond and to urge Victorian Labor Government to support expert advice including all recommendations in the Lay report written by former police chief commissioner Ken Lay and Professor Margaret Hamilton’s report authored in June 2020. 

  2. To maintain safe injecting policy in the Victorian ALP policy platform. 

  3. To acknowledge there is a significant number of residents, businesses, health professionals and members of the Victorian public who support the establishment of safe injecting rooms. It is possible to be tough on crime and have a better, safer approach to drug harm minimisation at the same time. 

  4. The Victorian Labor government is falling behind our State and Territory colleagues in the ACT, Queensland and New South Wales and must begin both fixed-site and mobile pill testing and fund an early warning network to alert the community to dangerous substances. 

  5. That the State’s police holding facilities are currently not equipped to provide a health response and therefore urgently requires the implementation of non-invasive medical monitoring which tracks vital signs and immediately calls for the assistance of paramedics if required. 

  6. That the State provide a 24-hour telephone triage service and specialised EFT who can assist the police with vulnerable community members who may be intoxicated but have committed an offence. 

  7. To acknowledge the significant investment made by the Allan Labor Government in the 2024-25 State Budget to deliver a $95 million Statewide Action Plan to reduce drug harms, including: 

    • Establishing CBD Community Health Hub on Finders Street as well as additional support services at the Salvos in Bourke St to support people who use drugs and the broader community; 

    • Enhanced outreach services in the CBD to provide care to people who need it;

    • Establish a Victorian-first hydromorphone trial, diversifying pharmacotherapy treatment options;

    • Expanding access to pharmacotherapy treatment through new funding: to community health providers;

    • Establishing 20 Naloxone dispensing units to improve access to overdose reversal medication; and

    • Trailing an Australian-first overdose prevention and response helpline to provide anonymous care and advice to those who need it.