Health workers are building better lives

Posted September 6, 2011 by Alex Scott

Workers in Queensland Health are vital to our community, and that's why it's great to see so many people signing up to make working lives better in Queensland Health.

HP members have voted to approve a new agreement, EB8 staff are holding meetings and events to move their own agreement forward, and the National Health Reforms are just around the corner. To see the full update on any of these, plus other stories of what Health workers are doing, see below.

Good news - ballot result signals a new agreement for HPs

Thousands of Together Health Practitioners took industrial action in 2010, including a one day strike on the first of December 2010 to win a fair agreement that supported health services in Queensland. Thanks to strong action by members, we were able to win significantly improved offers from the government, including an end to the government's destructive policy of a real wages cut for health service workers.

This was a huge achievement by HPs and a testament to the great work of union members and delegates and a very strong campaign by everyone involved. It was only because you were strong as a union group that you forced the government and Queensland Health to move in the interests of staff and quality health services for all Queenslanders.

Unfortunately, Queensland Health has had difficulty translating its words into action. Health negotiators fought a "rearguard" action to attempt to undo a lot of the good work that had been done.

These attempts were unsuccessful and the hard fought gains for HP members were maintained.

A huge thank you to all of the hardworking HP Steering Committee delegates who have ensured that no conditions were eroded and successfully held the line with Health based on the agreement struck with the Treasurer in late December 2010.

The Ballot saw a huge turnout of votes from Health Practitioners and an overwhelming endorsement of the agreement. The vote count was as follows:

Yes - 3889 - 92.33%
No - 312 - 7.41%
Inv - 11
Total - 4212

The agreement will need to be formalised in the Queensland Industrial Relations Commission allowing for the wage increase and the back pay to flow on to members. If you are not an employee of Queensland Health at the time of Certification you will not be entitled to back pay or the wage increase. There are a number of industrial items that now need to be followed up. Together Delegates will be working to ensure that all these entitlements are instigated as part of this agreement.

For details you can email hp@together.org.au

EB8 rally success leads on to the next stage

After the great success of the EB8 Rallies around the State to mark the expiry of the current agreement on 31 August,  EB8 union members are gearing up for sustained EB8  Stronger Together Campaigns. Members are fired up and ready to go after months of negotiations have resulted in no movement for Queensland Health in securing a decent wage increase, strengthening employment security and stop contracting out of health jobs. This along with QLD Health's plans for cut backs to rights and entitlements and expecting EB8 workers to find hundreds of millions dollars to pay for their on pay increase which sees Qld Health offer still fall well short of inflation. It time to send a clear message it's just not good enough. Sign onto the campaign at www.healtheb8.org.au

National Health Reforms

Together representatives and Queensland Health are involved in ongoing negotiations around matters relating to National Health Reforms and the proposed changes. Together members are seeking commitments around the maintenance of employment conditions, job security, commitment to change management guidelines, inclusive decision making, no forced transfers or redundancies or reductions in hours.

Queensland Health will form a new entity called the Health Services Support Agency (HSSA) to deliver services where quality and efficiency can be better achieved by a statewide approach. HSSA will evolve from CaSS and decisions on the specific services to sit within the HSSA will be confirmed in the coming weeks. In the future, if networks are required to deliver services in accordance with a nationally set cost efficient price, they need to have confidence that the HSSA will provide them with the services they need, at a competitive price, and at the required quality standard.

Health claim that establishing the HSSA as a commercialized business unit consistent with the Queensland Government's commercialization policy will ensure it is able to meet the needs of Networks. It will operate as part of Queensland Health but will have separate accounting and its own advisory board. Together delegates within CaSS will scrutinise these changes closely to ensure that all Together members will continue their employment under the same terms, conditions and entitlements.

Health Practitioner Reviews

Well over one hundred submissions were received from members of Together that have concerns with the outcomes of their HP Appeals, as part of the process endorsed by Health Council Delegates. Those submissions were then considered as part of this endorsed process by a panel of Together Council delegates.

This was vital to allowing Together Health Council Delegates to understand the sort of support members needed and any systemic issues that had been identified with the process. It was clear that while there were a few groups that raised common issues, generally the process had taken the course outlined in the Collective Agreement and endorsed by the QIRC.

The most common issue identified was simply insufficient detail in the Statement of Reasons to allow members to understand why their Appeals were rejected.

A small amount of cases showed evidence of a manifest failure of the panel. This was to be expected given that these cases were going through a second Appeals process and the panels included discipline reps that had been endorsed by all parties. However there were also a reasonable number where it was at least arguable the panel may have got it wrong.

On Friday, 5 August 2011, a report back was held before the Queensland Industrial Relations Commission (QIRC). The Deputy President noted the entitlement under the Collective Agreement to lodge a reclassification dispute in the QIRC and has decided to convene a Full Bench of the Commission to consider the process for hearing those disputes.

This referral to the Full Bench has both positives and negatives. On the plus side it will mean that a very robust process should be set in place that will maximise the chance of those lodging disputes receiving a fair outcome. On the negative however, this will mean the process will not be quick and could drag out for some months.

A mention will be held in the next couple of weeks where the Full Bench will issue some guidance as to timeframes and processes. We ask for your patience and understand your frustrations, but be assured we will keep you up to date on the progress of the Review process as soon as we have more information. We will also be in a position to give some advice as to the sorts of issues that have good prospects of success.

Should you have any queries please email hp@qpsu.org.au

CaSS AUSLAB

Together members in Clinical and Scientific Services (CaSS) are working to make the AUSLAB computer system work more efficiently for both patients and staff.

At the moment, staff are trying their best to deal with difficulties like reduced or no functioning for periods of up to 12 hours, meaning that patient data aren't entered into the system and critical tests from Emergency and other departments are not reviewed until up to 24 hours later.

This can mean that patients are not admitted to hospital, causing delays and Ambulance ramping, putting lives at risk.

Together members are asking that all CaSS Pathology labs employ temporary administration officers, until AUSLAB's replacement system is fully operational - the health and safety of patients is our priority.

These Administration officers would be employed to undertake answering phones for add on testing, hot printing urgent results, transcription of results from analyzers to manual forms, faxing of these manual forms both internally and externally. This will allow Clinical and State Wide Services Scientists to deal with the decisions on managing patient results in an efficient manner.

A petition was developed and distributed widely and supported by all members of the Health areas, Together Delegates will now meet with management to discuss the issue and the solutions suggested by members.

Medical Records staff win

In February 2009, Queensland Health management explained to all shift staff individually, that management had decided to change members' long-standing duty roster and was going to implement a roster whereby staff in the department would have to work on a 24-hour roster - to be implemented ASAP.

The proposed worker was unworkable. Staff would be left fatigued and stressed - to the detriment of patients. Management refused to provide detail on the process that was used to create the new rosters.

This issue was important to the quality of patient services as well as the well-being of staff, so Together members and delegates sought for the new rosters to be put on hold until a consultative group of delegates and management representatives look at the rosters together to see if they could be made workable.

It took twenty months of negotiations, and a fair amount of frustration and stress for all concerned, until a meeting was called between Together Delegates and management, to finalise the issue. As a result of this meeting, management agreed that union delegates and management would meet informally and together work out a roster. After two one-hour long meetings, a workable roster was finalised and is due to be trialed in October.

Congratulations to delegates in Medical Records for making sure that workers and patients can know that rostering practices in their area are up to scratch.

Protecting staff and the community in the RCH transition

The new Queensland Children's Hospital is due to be opened in 2014, but Together members are trying hard to ensure there is a careful transition that can guarantee services to patients.

Management at the current Royal Children's Hospital had announced a plan to shift to a new administration structure, without consulting with staff. With staff being kept in the dark, the plan was only presented to workers 2 weeks before the proposed implementation.

Members came together to ensure that everyone had their say. Members voted to reject the proposal, and ask that full consultation of staff take place. Delegates were nominated to talk to management about the concerns of hospital staff, with the aim of developing a structure that met the needs of management, staff and patients.

Happily, hospital management has agreed to put the rollout of a new administration structure on hold until a hospital-wide divisional structure has been implemented, at which point appropriate consultation will take place.

Win for fair processes for admin staff

Admin staff at the RCH have scored another win in making sure that the process for relieving staff appointments is fair and transparent.

Staff were concerned following examples of a lack of fair process in appointing admin staff, meaning that not everyone had equal opportunity to register an expression of interest in a relieving position.

In the most recent case, when delegates noticed that a request for expressions of interest had not been sent out, Together delegates contacted management and asked them to behave fairly. Management have agreed and a request was subsequently sent out to all staff. Delegates are still monitoring the situation to do our best to make sure everyone plays by the rules when it comes to higher duties relieving.

 


Authorised Alex Scott, Secretary, Together.
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