Welcome to the New Decade

Welcome to the new decade, although it has been quite a frightening and unnerving start.

Firstly, the HSU#4, MSAV, VPA and AHP Committees and staff pass on our thoughts to all members and their families who have been affected by the bushfires which have wreaked and continue to wreak such devastation across our country. In particular we are thinking of members who have lost loved ones or properties in the fires.

And we pass on our thanks and appreciation to all members who have been involved in fighting the fires or in emergency relief services, or assisting in any way.

The Victorian union movement has been meeting and is working out how it can best respond to the crisis and is actively considering what support can be provided. We already know the fire affected communities will need a variety of support once the rebuild commences.

We are working with the Victorian Trades Hall Council to collect a list of people who can help. If you can help build a fence, cook and serve food, handle hazardous material, drive a bus/truck or volunteer your time please fill out this short form. There are already 800 unionists across Victoria who have pledged their expertise when it comes time to rebuild our local communities. Or you can make a donation – those working on the front line are telling us that they need money right now and don’t need donations of goods at this time.

The Union will continue to work with the Victorian Trades Hall Council and unions across Victoria to provide as much assistance as possible to people in fire affected regions.

As these meetings are taking place it is important to not forget that the bushfire crisis we are experiencing is a result of climate change; and made worse by the failure of our political leaders to implement outcomes from the numerous enquiries and royal commissions into bushfires. As a Union we firmly believe that climate change is having an impact on us right now; and is leading to poorer physical and mental health outcomes. We must invest in a national strategy to deal with the increasing health impacts of climate change; and we need to take immediate action to address climate change.

And while there is an ongoing failure of leadership offered by the Scott Morrison and the Coalition, it is good to see that the Australian Greens and the Australian Labor Party have not abandoned the need to take strong, immediate action on climate change and work to mitigate the impacts we’re already experiencing. You can read Labor’s statement about the need to protect people’s health and well-being which is in line with the joint statement the Union signed with the Climate and Health Alliance (and others) before the summer break about concerns around air quality in NSW and the impacts on people’s health and well-being.

The Union won’t shy away from talking about climate change and the current crisis; or that immediate action is needed if we are to avert the worst impacts of climate change. That’s why we encourage members to support and attend the rally on Saturday at the State Library from 2pm to 4pm.

As we look to the rest of the year and what’s in store, we already know it’s going to be busy.

The Union will continue to press for compliance with our agreements especially in areas related to workloads and the failure by many health services to backfill positions in a timely manner. The sheer degree and amount of unpaid work being performed continues to illustrate the failure of health services to take staff shortages and their health and well-being seriously. The Union will be working with members to continue to lobby the Victorian government to address the huge shortfalls in staff numbers across all of our disciplines. And with the current environmental disaster befalling our state, the staff shortages are likely to make recovery slower for those seeking treatment.

We are finalising the No Pay? No Way! Report 2019 which we hope to circulate to members towards the end of January. The report so far confirms that health services are continuing to ignore the crisis facing our disciplines and still believe that they are able to maintain the level and quality of services as demand explodes while staff numbers have stagnated and vacancies remain unfilled. And it is showing that there are significant concerns about the high workloads and the impact this is having on members’ physical and mental health and well-being.

2020 also means that we will commence the next round of public sector bargaining for a new agreement. It only seems like last year that we secured the last public sector agreement. But to make sure we’re well prepared for bargaining, we are starting to build a survey to circulate to public sector members. We will kick off our member survey shortly to be followed by workplace member meetings immediately after. Make sure you let us have your thoughts and ideas for claims and priorities over the next few months.

This year is going to be another big year for the Union and we look forward to working with you to make it another successful year.

Paul Elliott

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