CSYW: Time to make a decision – please read and respond

Posted on July 10, 2020

Background

  • Your CSYW Steering Committee delegates have been working for over two years to negotiate and certify your EB. There have been key industrial issues raised including workloads, attraction and retention and improving classifications. As members, you took protected industrial action that included strikes, work bans and rallies.
  • In December 2019 we were ready to go to arbitration for the whole agreement until a last minute offer by your employer after significant negotiations. Members voted to give in-principle agreement to this offer to settle the EB for conditions whilst still arbitrating wages.
  • In April 2020, just as the employee ballot was about to go live, the government 'paused' it, preventing this necessary step from occurring so that certification of the agreement could proceed.
  • The government has now changed legislation, which means that it is no longer a requirement for an employee ballot to occur. Instead the majority of unions need to consent for an EB to be certified.
  • The government is now seeking that Together provide its consent to certify the agreement, that has been amended to include the 'wage freeze' legislation. The wages aspect of the agreement will continue to be arbitrated due to the substantial differences in position between your employer and members. You can see the new proposed agreement here.

Unmanageable workloads in Child Safety

  • Members have been very clear that workloads are the highest priority in this round of bargaining. The need for proper process to manage workloads, particularly in CSSCs, remains critical. You, and the children and families that you work with deserve better.
  • Every inquiry into Child Safety in Queensland has recommended, essentially, a ratio of Child Safety Officers to children and young people that they case manage. Successive governments have failed to properly implement these recommendations. Members and delegates know that this been a significant systemic factor to children and young people in our community continuing to suffer abuse and neglect.
  • Members and delegates continue to raise the high levels of stress and burnout in themselves and their colleagues due to unreasonable workloads.
  • Recent media attention has only added to the stress that members are reporting back to their delegates and the CSYW Together team.

Actions of the department undermining confidence of members

  • We hear members when they say they are frustrated and exhausted by worrying about how to keep children, young people and families safe with the time and resources available to them.
  • Members are also, understandably, concerned about the announcement of a review by the Public Service Commission into ethical standards processes from 2016, as well as the QFCC investigation into more recent cases.
  • Child Safety staff are feeling vulnerable and many members have expressed to us that they don't feel that they have the backing of the Department if something goes wrong.

Progress of Workload Management Policy and Manual

  • One of the conditions agreed to in principle was that the Department would, in consultation with Together, create a Child Safety Workload Management Policy and accompanying Manual.
  • This process began well and the Policy and Manual (as it applies to Ongoing Intervention cases) were written and finalised by end of March 2020.
  • The implementation of the Policy and Manual appears to have now significantly stalled. Only after pressure from your delegates has the Department commenced a 'trial' at Springfield CSSC and Toowoomba South. The Department is now saying that the full roll-out of the policy and manual across the state is not going to happen until 2021.
  • Your delegates find this to be unacceptable. Work on other positions within the department including RIS, PSU, IA CSOs, CPAs, CSSOs and Administration Officers has not yet commenced, and there are significant questions about when the Manual would be rolled out for these workers.

Progress on other aspects of the agreement

  • Your delegates are now deeply concerned that the implementation of the EB will not live up to what we had hoped it would when delegates recommended the offer.
  • There has been very limited progress on other conditions and working parties outlined in the agreement, and the timeframe for many of these has now blown out.
  • The timing of these is an important factor. We have seen both sides of politics use legislation to change collective agreements when it suits them. With an election in October, there is the potential for a change of government and the Opposition has already put forward its plans for a Child Protection Force, should there be a change of government.
  • Your delegates are worried that without progress being achieved in key areas, we risk not having embedded many of the conditions that formed the in-principle agreement.

Where to from here?

Conference Delegates met with Minister Farmer last week and expressed all of the above worries.  The delegates reported that the response from the Minister has not allayed their concerns.

Your Steering Committee delegates, who have guided this collective bargaining process since 2018, have very seriously considered the options on the table. The options are:

  • Accept the EB offer, seek its certification and proceed with implementation; or,
  • Reject the EB offer and return to arbitration proceedings.

Your steering committee delegates have expressed worries that the proposed certified agreement will not deliver as expected when members originally voted at the beginning of the year, for the above-mentioned reasons.

Your Steering Committee's recommendation is that we return to arbitration.

  • Your delegates believe – particularly in relation to workloads for Child Safety staff – this is an opportunity that does not come along frequently. They believe it is worth the shot.
  • However, it is important to remember that there are no guarantees in arbitration. We will run the best evidence and arguments possible, but at the end of the day it will be decided by Industrial Commissioners.
  • You can see what we were fighting for in arbitration here.

Together is a democratic union and each and every member gets a say. That's why we are asking you to consider this question: do you want to settle the EB, or do you want to go to arbitration?

Vote here by Close of Business Friday 17 July.

Asking you to commit to a longer process for your conditions, when it has already been two years, is difficult. But the question of settling versus proceeding to arbitration is just one part. There are ways Together members can improve your working lives, and have your voices heard, in the short-term.

Will you join in a day of action to ask the Department to fast-track the implementation of the WMM across the state? Let us know what you would be willing to be a part of here.

This is a lot of information, and it's a complicated process. There are no silly questions! Your CSYW team in the union office is here to help you with any questions about this that you might have. Please contact us on csyw@together.org.au or 1800 177 244 if you have any questions.

Thank you for the work you do.

P.S. You may have seen some of your Child Safety delegates speaking out to the ABC recently. This, of course, was not a decision made lightly by delegates; but, after having heard from so many other people with an opinion on the work that you do, delegates decided that the voice of Child Safety workers needed to be heard. Thanks to Lucy and Vish for speaking up!

1800 177 244
members@together.org.au