NEWSLETTER SUPPLEMENT TO THE AEU NEWS • JUNE 2009
A time for action Recent developments in Tasmania and Queensland show that politicians are finally grasping that the future viability of the disability sector depends on paying a decent wage. Rob Stewart deputy vice president, TAFE and adult provision
S THE end of June approaches, the current enterprise agreement is about to expire and the AEU is working hard to put in place a bargaining framework to move forward in negotiating its replacement. It is quite clear that the current shambolic system which has developed over the past few years cannot continue. The AEU has made our expectations clear in this new round of negotiations not only to the Government but also directly to Department of Human Services. We want a bargaining framework which presents all parties with a simple set of principles under
which an agreement will be made and binding on all ATSSs and the union. We can no longer tolerate centres walking away from the process after the agreement is reached. This is not good faith bargaining and the AEU will not accept this practice continuing. A quarter of day services have not signed up to the last agreement — that is a disgrace. The second major issue for the union is the quantum of monies on the table. Our claim is for 17% over three years in line with the margin between the various wage outcomes achieved by the AEU in the current round of agreements. At first glance it might be seen as excessive; however the base wages for the sector are well below comparable
public sector jobs. Recently both Tasmanian and Queensland workers in the disability sector have received good news. The Tasmanian Minister for Human Services, Lin Thorpe, stated at a recent conference: “Workforce capacity is one on the most pressing and complex issues facing the disability sector nationally.” She went on to say: “Tasmania has recognised the need to lift wages for the disability sector to ensure we continue to have an effective workforce able to deliver the services (that) people with disabilities need.” It was a welcome comment which cuts to the heart of the matter affecting workers in the Victorian disability sector.
Meanwhile in Queensland, the recent decision by the state’s Industrial Relations Commission to award increases for the sector of up to 28% over three years indicates clearly what needs to happen in Victoria. Our claim is modest in light of developments around the nation. The AEU calls on Victorian Community Services Minister Lisa Neville to follow the lead of her interstate counterparts and establish a bargaining framework which accepts the 17% wage claim as a core component of the process. It is now time to act in the interests of the workforce and equally importantly address the fundamental issues around attraction and retention in the industry. ◆
Negotiations set to begin P
RELIMINARY discussions have begun between the AEU and employers’ group VECCI on a new agreement for disability services. AEU organisers Kerry Maher and Meaghan Flack met VECCI consultant Rebecca Pearce at the AEU offices on Friday June 12. Additional items included in the new 2009–2012 Agreement draft from the members’ Log of Claims were listed, and possible funding for wages was discussed. The possibility of developing a Single Interest
Agreement was also raised. This is a new form of agreement under the Fair Work Australia Act which comes into effect next month, and is applicable where employers share the same interests. If applicable to the disability sector, this would help simplify and accelerate the negotiation process. VECCI is keen to start negotiations with the AEU as soon as possible and to put the new agreement in place in a timely manner to avoid the delays and back pay requirements that occurred with the last agreement.
The second of the three large employers’ groups, VHIA, has also told the AEU it is ready to start discussions. By the time you read this, a draft 2009–2012 agreement will have been tabled at the disability services committee meeting on June 16 at Frankston RSL, and presented to the AEU TAFE and adult provision (TAP) council for adoption on June 19 — clearing the way for negotiations to formally begin. ◆ — Kerry Maher disability services organiser
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Health and safety CHAMPIONS A new program aims to tackle health and safety issues in the disability sector. Meaghan Flack disability services organiser
ORKSAFE Victoria has developed a new project to help improve knowledge and practice around occupational health and safety in the disability sector. The OH&S Champions project will operate for the next three years and be run through the office of the National Disability Services (NDS). Project officer Catherine Doherty has been employed to oversee the program.
The aims of the project are to build knowledge and capacity in the in the sector; to build on related projects and initiatives; and to address legislative and policy issues. NDS updates, the NDS DisabilitySAFE website, and a series of forums, events and sector-specific OH&S training courses will all be used to spread knowledge and awareness. The project will also attempt to develop OH&S networks across the state in Melbourne, Shepparton, Traralgon, Ararat and south-west Victoria.
And it will help WorkSafe inspectors to improve their knowledge of the sector. In addition to this, an interagency OH&S working group has been established with the Department of Human Services and WorkSafe to examine and resolve tensions between the OH&S Act and the regulations in the Disability Services Act and service standards. The AEU has already met Ms Doherty to offer our help with the project. ◆
AEU wins pay rise at Milparinka Kerry Maher disability services organiser
HE AEU has been dogged in its persistence in contacting all services not currently covered by agreements with the AEU. Recently I met again with Milparinka CEO Frank Crupi to discuss the annual 3% increases his staff should have received for the three years from 2006 to 2009 as per the current AEU agreements. Every government-funded disability
service in Victoria received state funding to cover an annual 3% pay rise for staff over those three years. But not every service — for a variety of reasons — has passed this funding on to staff. Employers’ organisation VHIA advised Mr Crupi that he was not required to pay the wages without signing a current AEU agreement and that, as the next agreement (for 2009–2012) would soon be under negotiation, that wasn’t necessary. This would have placed employee
wages at Milparinka well behind other services with current AEU agreements. Mr Crupi thanked the AEU for bringing this to his attention as he did not want his employees paid less than others in the sector. AEU membership services unit officer David Bunn has provided a comprehensive back pay calculator which will bring Milparinka employees to parity with other disability services employees in Victoria. The AEU has also passed on the calculator and information about
current rates of pay to other services who have not adopted a current agreement but who wish to pay their staff correctly. The best possible outcome for the future is for all services to sign on to the next AEU agreement to avoid this discrepancy. It makes attraction and retention of staff much more likely if they are receiving wage parity. ◆
Committee goes west
N KEEPING with the decision to take the Disability Sector Committee on the road in 2009, our last meeting was held at Kooringal Golf Club, Altona on Tuesday May 12. The meeting was a great success and members expressed their pleasure at being able to meet more locally. In addition to the usual agenda, the meeting again provided lobbying training and developed ideas for campaigning towards the 2009–2012 agreement. The opportunity to network with each other was also appreciated by the members in attendance and many were still enthusiastically exchanging ideas after the official close of the meeting. More regional metro meetings and country meetings are being arranged. Flyers will be sent to members — if you have not yet been to a local meeting please avail yourself of this opportunity. ◆ — Kerry Maher and Meaghan Flack disability services organisers
Disability Services newsletter | june 2009
DATES FOR 2009 HIS is your chance to influence AEU disability sector policy, network with colleagues from other centres, and join the conversation about disability issues. Tuesday, July 28 5.00pm Tuesday, August 25 5.00pm Tuesday, October 20 5.00pm Tuesday, December 1 5.00pm For more information, email Gayle Bernhardt at firstname.lastname@example.org or phone (03) 9418 4860.