With workloads exploding in many of our services because of the pandemic it is timely to remind members that rights, including enterprise agreement entitlements, still apply. The latest surge in COVID-19 cases and the numbers of people seeking to get tested has generated a new level of high workload, and sadly this difficult situation is very likely to worsen before it eases. We know all too well that high pandemic workloads, just like any other unsustainable workload, directly correlate to increased physical and mental injuries.
Your rights to be protected from the adverse impacts of high workloads have not been diminished by the pandemic, lockdowns, or public health orders. Your right to a safe workplace (which includes safe workloads) are covered in OH&S legislation and for many of our members, specific enterprise agreement provisions.
The Union is very aware of the commitment of our members to support the sick and help see us through to the end of the pandemic, and we wholeheartedly thank you for your ongoing effort and sacrifice. We recognise that members are having to make significant decisions about work and respect your need to do that.
However, it is important to remind members that your work should be safe, and if you feel workloads have become a risk, your rights to fix that risk remain intact. If you have a workload issue, make sure you talk to the Union to get advice and support; throughout all lockdowns we have maintained representation for members.
We continue to receive reports that staff are not replaced when they go on leave, work isn’t prioritised when staff are on sick leave, and vacant positions are not being filled. These have long been identified as significant contributors to high workloads hence why it is particularly egregious this continues as the state continues to record massive numbers of people testing positive to COVID-19 and our hospitals are under ever-increasing pressure.
It is essential that you let your managers know that it is not acceptable to be forced into unsustainable workloads and doing unpaid work on a regular basis just to get your work done. It is important to remember that you have the right to refuse to do unpaid work.
With working long hours known to be responsible for about one-third of the total estimated work-related burden of disease, it is established as the risk factor with the largest occupational disease burden.
The Union remains unapologetic about our backfill and staffing-level campaigns given the very real need for all health services to employ more staff to deal with the ever-growing workloads and longer working hours. Please make sure you report positions not being backfilled or vacancies that remain open so that we can take it up.