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3 minute read

THE NEED FOR VIGILANCE

COVID-19 CONDITIONS ARE IMPORTANT IN 2021

Natasha Brown, Assistant General Secretary

A strong enterprise agreement which provides job security and respectful conditions of employment is fundamental to a vibrant, modern, well-resourced, adaptable, responsive and effective world class public service.

PSA member consultation during 2020 overwhelmingly confirmed job security as the number one issue for members. The PSA continues to stand firm on retaining job security and other fundamental conditions during the bargaining for the successor agreement to the current SAMPSEAS.

At a time when PSA members are doing some of the most important work of their careers, and when our community needs you the most, SAMPSEAS has proven to be a shield that protects not only our members but the vital services you provide for our community.

With the state government’s agenda of cuts and privatisation, and with community needs increasing and becoming more complex, members clearly understand how important it is to protect these conditions.

The government’s bargaining agenda remains to remove many of the fundamental conditions members fought for and won during the last round of bargaining (including job security, dispute avoidance and resolution, and consultation).

I’m proud to say that under the job security protections we won in SAMPSEAS, not one single PSA member has been made involuntarily redundant. Our redeployment, retraining and redundancy (RRR) provisions have protected PSA members, even during one of the most precarious unemployment climates in a generation.

We must continue to defend our job security and other important conditions. Not only to protect our own livelihoods and our own families, but to protect all South Australians by defending the essential public services our community relies upon.

In recent membership meetings PSA members overwhelmingly committed to stand firm together to protect these conditions.

We are in a strong position and if we keep working together and stay united, we will succeed.

During the first lockdown in March and April 2020, it rapidly became clear that many PSA members were facing a range of drastically altered circumstances arising from working from home, forced isolation, waiting for COVID-19 test results – all with uncertain implications for pay and leave arrangements.

From the start, the PSA actively advocated for members’ industrial rights and the introduction of special COVID-19 arrangements. General Secretary Nev Kitchin was directly involved in much of this advocacy - not just for industrial arrangements, but for the protection of PSA members’ safety.

These arrangements dealt with the many variations in personal circumstances that arose unexpectedly during the early days of the pandemic, such as sickfamily members or complications with self-isolation.

The PSA advocated for the introduction of Special COVID-19 Leave in March 2020 and then supported members access to it.

During the brief second lockdown in November 2020, the PSA was instrumental through timely and direct high level negotiation with government in having the original 15 days Special COVID-19 Leave reset for another 15 days for those members who needed it.

Last year the PSA Members’ Industrial Hotline responded to 683 member enquiries about their rights in relation to a range of COVID-19 arrangements. In the course of their jobs during the pandemic, many PSA members face high levels of potential exposure to the virus. PSA leadership and industrial staff will continue to be vigilant to ensure that members are not financially disadvantaged as a result of being potentially or actually exposed to the virus, and that risks to their safety are minimised.

With the current high levels of COVID-19 overseas and the risks of more infectious mutating virus strains arriving in South Australia, the PSA will continue to advocate for members in 2021 to ensure members can work safely and be treated fairly.

The COVID-19 story is not over yet.