Mental health workers pledge to continue rolling stoppages

Mental health workers have been striking for two hours at a time in rolling stoppages around Victoria since April 10. The campaign is in support of a new enterprise bargaining agreement.

Key elements of the claim include a 16% pay rise over three years and improved staffing.

After seven months of negotiation, the government has still not budged on its position of capping pay rises at a below-inflation 2.5% a year.

The union covering mental health workers, the Health and Community Service Union (HACSU), has negotiated with the employers via Fair Work Australia.

However, the Victorian Hospitals Industrial Association and the Department of Health are still insisting on big cuts to working conditions.

HACSU says these include the introduction of: “Short and split shifts, flexible work location — the ability to move on a shift by shift basis, “flexing down” from unit/team profiles, loss of sick leave rights for part time staff accepting additional shifts (on that shift), potential substitution, and limited access to Fair Work Australia as part of revised dispute settlement processes.”

The hospitals association tried to impose some of these “flexibilities” on general nurses in hospitals but the recent Australian Nursing Federation (ANF) campaign beat them back.

The hospitals association and the health department are trying to impose some of the outcomes from the ANF and the Health Services Union East agreements. HACSU said it will “continue to press its claims for all nurses, allied health, psychologists, administrative and non direct care staff, and for all to be included in a single mental health agreement”.

HACSU said on April 18: “None of the outcomes in the general health deal with issues specific to mental health, such as workload management matters or community training positions.

“In particular the general nurse’s outcome does not deal with any claims on behalf of allied health, administrative and non direct care staff, who also require a relevant mental health outcome. The general nurses’ outcome doesn’t even deal with mental health nurses’ issues like minimum classification.”

HACSU is continuing its rolling stoppages and will carry out overtime bans from April 24. It also plans a statewide stop work meeting on May 1.