Health staff reject shoddy deal

Issue 

By Phil Shannon

The ballot for a new certified agreement in the Commonwealth Department of Health and Aged Care concluded last week. The result was a resounding "no".

Sixty per cent of staff rejected the shabby agreement, which provided for a very low wage rise (1.8% a year over two and a half years) and an unpopular individual performance pay bonus system in lieu of wage rises.

The final vote was 1386 against to 895 for. Management's offer of a $500 sign-on bonus was seen by staff as a tawdry bribe and failed to buy enough votes to get the agreement over the line.

The Community and Public Sector Union (CPSU) and other unions in the health department campaigned for a "no" vote to force management back to the negotiating table on the certified agreement. The final vote was a significant victory for the CPSU and a strong rebuke to management, which failed to negotiate in good faith and treated staff views with contempt.

Management is now crying poor, claiming that there isn't enough money to fund a bigger wage rise. Staff are wondering why they should be expected to pay for the monumental financial incompetence of a management which has continued to pick up its performance bonuses whilst driving the department into a multimillion-dollar debt.

Management is also continuing its time-honoured tactic of delay, claiming it will have to research why staff voted no.

The ballot outcome and staff's loss of confidence in management provide an opening for the CPSU to apply pressure for an immediate agreement to fix up the threshold issues of pay, performance bonuses and working hours.

[Phil Shannon is the CPSU section council president in Health and Aged Care.]