4 minute read

Keeping members informed in challenging times

With strong direction from the PSA leadership team, we have found new ways to make sure PSA members are being protected.

Like all of you in your own workplaces, at the PSA office we have adapted to a new way of working. Despite these changes to our lives, the COVID-19 pandemic has brought PSA members together in union stronger than ever before.

When we think union we often think of meetings, rallies, and other physical displays where we come together. COVID-19 put a stop to all of these. The public health requirement to physically distance was taken on board and we are all doing our bit to halt the pandemic.

PSA General Secretary Nev Kitchin identified the potential for a COVID-19 shutdown early and put contingency plans in place very quickly as a result. PSA staff quickly adapted to working in ways that would keep our members safe from the spread of COVID-19. By the end of March we had shifted all meetings to phone or video calls where possible, and were using creative actions and strategies where we would previously have come together in person. We have used this opportunity to provide our training online and create new professional development and training sessions, all run remotely.

The COVID-19 pandemic has brought upon us the largest work, health and safety (WHS) issue ever presented to our union. PSA staff worked with members to make sure all workers were safe. We met regularly with Health and other public sector agency management to advocate for workplace safety for our members. Members campaigned to protect vulnerable workers, for access to PPE, to initiate safe distances in the workplace, flexible work arrangements, to work from home, and against unreasonable management decisions.

Although not always easy, we worked together and achieved some great outcomes. For many members, COVID-19 revitalised a passion for WHS, and reminded many people why our WHS and structures are imperative and workers need to be active and involved.

Worksite Representatives have been at the forefront, demonstrating great leadership in keeping PSA members strong on the ground. 

Secure jobs

This crisis exposed casualisation and job insecurity for what they are — unfair and unjust working conditions that leave the most vulnerable workers exposed. The price of the erosion of protections and conditions, like job security, has been laid bare.

The strength and solidarity PSA members have shown through the pandemic has been a beautiful thing to be a part of. We are so proud of the work you have done to keep public services running. We are proud of how you have supported yourselves, your colleagues and the public. This is powerful. The COVID-19 pandemic demonstrates that only a strong public sector can get us through a crisis. We must continue to fight for our public services, for what they achieve and for what they represent – a society where we care about each other.

Thousands of union members across the country, including our own casual and contract members in some areas, were left with little to fall back on when their workplace shut down. We cannot allow such conditions to continue. It is our responsibility as union members to encourage non-members to join so we can build a future that sees more workers in secure jobs.

Wins

For workplaces that temporarily closed, such as BreastScreen SA, workers in the Arts sectors, and workplaces such as Wiltja Boarding, SA Dental Service, and schools, the PSA negotiated for workers to be reassigned and for the conversion of contract staff to permanent where possible.

In one Arts organisation, we achieved conversions to permanency for twentyseven contract workers.

Of course, we must celebrate the enormous win that SA Pathology remains in public hands. After years of campaigning, this was a joyous celebration for all of our strong members working in SA Pathology.

PSA General Secretary Nev Kitchin identified the potential for a COVID-19 shutdown early. 

As we have said all along, you are essential. It is clear the community will not stand for privatisation and every single member who signed a petition, took action, or spoke out about this, contributed to this win. Let’s celebrate this achievemnet together when it is safe to do so!

We want to recognise the dedicated work of all Worksite Representatives. Organisers have been meeting with Worksite Representatives regularly and remotely through this period. Worksite Representatives have been at the forefront, demonstrating great leadership in keeping PSA members strong on the ground through a period of uncertainty.

The strength and solidarity PSA members have shown through the pandemic has been a beautiful thing to be a part of. We are so proud of the work you have done to keep public services running. We are proud of how you have supported yourselves, your colleagues and the public. This is powerful. The COVID-19 pandemic demonstrates that only a strong public sector can get us through a crisis. We must continue to fight for our public services, for what they achieve and for what they represent – a society where we care about each other.