Therapists: What might happen next? Poll, Drafting, Arbitration?
As union members you have put the fight for pay parity and recognition for therapists in education at the front and centre of the industrial agenda in 2018.
We now have a written offer to settle our EB agreement that has pay parity in it. Yay!
We have also had a (small but important) win on having the department centrally fund laptops and phones for all therapists so you don't have to pay for them out of your grants.
The wrinkle in the victory lap at the moment is that the Department are not offering your colleagues who are public servants in Education, particularly those on the lowest pay levels, the same pay rise as other workers across the sector. While many union members who are not therapists are voting to support the offer because it delivers for you, there are other members who are not happy to accept the offer yet.
A union is as strong as its members and Together therapists are now very strong. And that is why the Department have written down HP parity and written it in to this offer – because you HAVE done the hard yards and we have advocated, done the review, produced the evidence, done the negotiations, the political lobbying, been on strike, done work bans, etc etc etc. You have made the big effort.
There are two things that could happen now:
- The poll of union members votes YES to accept the offer. Then the deal goes in to the drafting phase. This process takes a few more months and then the implementation happens once the agreement is certified. It would be back-dated to 1 September this year. If the offer is accepted the work bans stay lifted because the dispute is over.
- The poll of union members votes NO to this offer. Then we go to the Industrial Relations Commission on Tuesday and outline that we believe that this matter should be kept on the table and that the Department need to move their offer a little bit more for others and then we could accept it, and if they aren't prepared to, then we proceed to arbitration. That process also takes a few months, but the catch is that there isn't any back-dating in that process. If the offer is rejected we would keep the work bans on (they were suspended for the poll) – to keep the pressure on to see the HP parity kept.
As I outlined today currently the poll result is very close however the number of votes to not accept (or the no votes) are slightly higher. So I want everyone to be prepared for the second option.
I have ALREADY, on Friday, outlined to the Department that their tactic of sending this out with 7 days and threatening to withdraw this offer if not accepted by the 14th is an outrageous step and one that puts therapists at risk of leaving with such heavy handed tactics. You are too valuable and this issue is too important for them not just to say, as they should have months (or years) ago "this is an agreed matter" – we are progressing HP parity.
As we discussed today on the teleconference – we have come this far, it is written down, we might be waiting a few more weeks but we will see HP parity through. It is still the priority issue.
We know that.
I know many of you are feeling angry, despondent or disappointed with the 'take it or leave it' approach and the likelihood of option 2 being the one that happens next week. I also know that your delegates are incredible and are still resolved to be there in January advocating and not backing down. These are your colleagues who have made the case at every point.
I remain hopeful that we will see a positive resolution sooner rather than later. Both options have a pathway in which we persist and we are one day closer to HP parity!
Personally I also just want to say that I wish this was easier for you, that I feel your anger and frustration and I cannot believe how hard such a clearly ethical and important move this is. I am away on leave from tomorrow until 14 January but will be watching with interest from afar and with kids underfoot. I will be back in mid January ready to draft or arbitrate and will be with you each step of the way.
I hope you all have a safe and happy festive season.
You will hear from my colleagues – Heather who will be acting in my role, Ken our advocate or Alex the Secretary of the union in my absence.
I will talk with you all again soon no doubt!