Queensland Health: January union update

Posted on January 18, 2021

We hope your new year is getting off to a good start and you stay safe and well this year.  We would like to welcome you back for 2021 and remind you to get in touch with your union office if you have any workplace concerns via 1800 177 244 or health@together.org.au.

Ensuring we have strong local union networks in 2021 will be critical to better, safe and fairer workplaces. As a union we will all work together to look after each other, and our community, this year.

Responsible Workforce Management

As part of its Savings and Debt plan to tighten spending in the public sector, Queensland Health (QH) has implemented the Responsible Workforce Management (RWM) approach to fill temporary and permanent positions in order to contain workforce growth. The strategy states that front line staff are exempt from this process, the positions that are not exempt are referred to the CE or the Chief Human Resource Officer (CHRO) in the Department of Health as part of a recruitment process. Together raised concerns that the RWM policy contravened the industrial obligations to replace staff for those that are not deemed to be front line. 

Industrial provisions contained in three of our Health EB agreements, specifically the replacement of staff clauses, mean that all permanent vacancies must be filled permanently.  

Together escalated these concerns to the Queensland Industrial Relations Commission, and continued to negotiate with Queensland Health to alter the policy. A new policy has been developed as part of these negotiations which will apply to non-front line positions.

The changes to the new policy include:

  • Where a position became vacant prior to 18 January 2021, the date of 18 January 2021 should be used to calculate the length of the vacancy.
  • Where a position becomes vacant after 18 January 2021, the date the position became vacant should be used to calculate the length of the vacancy.
  • All joint reviews and discussions between Queensland Health and the relevant union/s, in accordance with the process set out for vacancies between six to twelve months, must occur before 1 April 2021 for relevant vacancies as at 18 January 2021.
  • Where a recruitment process is occurring and the position is occupied by an employee in a temporary, casual or higher duties capacity who is not eligible for conversion, this employee should be extended in the position until such time as recruitment to the role is concluded.
  • Definition – In accordance with cl 11.6 Replacement of Existing Staff of the Queensland Public Health Sector Certified Agreement (No. 10) 2019 A vacancy is created where a permanent employee leaves due to retirement, resignation, termination, transfer or promotion. In these instances, these employees will be replaced by a permanent employee. 

Together has requested information from the Health and Hospital Services, the Department of Health, eHealth and Health Support Queensland relating to these vacancy lists which has not been supplied. In some instances, management have refused to share this information with Together. That’s why it’s so important that if there is a vacancy in your area that we raise this with management and ask that it be filled.

Throughout this process Together has raised concerns regarding the failure to fill permanent vacancies throughout Queensland Health. Together has escalated these concerns formally in writing to the Director-General for Health Dr John Wakefield prior to lodging further action in the Queensland Industrial Relations Commission seeking compliance.

If you have permanent vacancies not being filled in your areas and you need help raising this in order to have them filled please let us know the details of the position, the area and how long the position has be vacant.

Underpayment of Wages/Back Payment

Together members have had some big wins in the last year in ensuring that you are being paid the wages you are owed, unfortunately there is still more to do on these issues!

Members who are being paid the extra week's leave for working public holidays, have historically not been paid properly for Easter Saturday, Easter Sunday, Labour Day and Show Day public holidays. This issue was raised with Health Support Queensland in late 2018. The issue was also previously raised in 2017.

Health Support Queensland has confirmed the payment of outstanding entitlements to continuous shift work employees in relation to identified Public Holidays (i.e. Easter Saturday, Easter Sunday, Show Day and Labour Day) and back-pay is planned to be processed and be paid over two pay periods.  

  • The first tranche of payments will occur on Wednesday 20 January 2021, and
  • The second tranche of payments will occur on Wednesday 3 February 2021.

The payment will be backdated six years from 12 July 2019.

Members who have been underpaid wages due to the “penalty vs loading” (leave loading) are still waiting for the Department to conclude investigations and calculations. We know this is very frustrating, and it’s unacceptable that you have been denied your entitlements. Queensland Health officials have indicated that members who have been underpaid wages may not be paid until after January 2021. Since the last communication with members in December the Department of Health has set down a meeting Thursday 21 January 2021 to discuss this matter.  

Members who are employed as Medical Physicists who were owed additional allowances under their industrial agreement, were paid in their last pay in December 2020 and back paid to 17 October 2019.   

Members who are Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Workers and Clinical Assistants have yet to be paid wages owed to them on translation to their new Agreement; Queensland Health managers have indicated that they will not be paid until 31 March 2021. We believe that this is specifically a breach of s218 of the Industrial Relations Act 2016 (Qld) which states that “A person must not contravene a bargaining instrument”, this is a civil penalty provision and Together members are actively considering their rights to lodge a complaint about stealing under the Criminal Code as per section 391. Together is seeking the immediate payment of unpaid wages for these workers.

Members who are retiring prior to these payments being made in March should contact health@together.org.au so that we are able to assist you in receiving these payments prior to you leaving Health. You are entitled to this back payment.

You can back Together members affected by these underpayments by signing a petition calling on the Director-General for Health to immediately pay all members involved.

COVID Update

Following the Chief Health Officer’s announcement on Friday 8 January 2021, that the Greater Brisbane area will go into lockdown, here is a link to information from the CHO outlining the current requirements for residents of Greater Brisbane. We know that you are all very familiar with these requirements.

As you know, masks are now required to be carried by anyone outside of their home and face masks must be worn in public indoor spaces until 22 January 2021. 

The COVID-19 leave arrangements developed last year remain unchanged and in place.

Together members are doing an amazing job at keeping our community safe and ensuring people continue to have access to essential health services. We also know this can be a very challenging times for members and your families, and we are here for you to provide any advice or assistance members need so please do not hesitate to contact your union office via email health@together.org.au if you have any questions or concerns.

It will also be really important to stay alert to developing health advice – we will continue to keep members up to date as we hear of any new developments. 

We have asked for consultation about any potential new quarantine locations and we are meeting with Queensland Health and other unions about the planned roll out for vaccinations this week. We will update members when we know more.

Thank you and stay safe and well.

1800 177 244