Victorian hospital jobs under threat


Victorian hospital jobs under threat

By Seetal Dodd

MELBOURNE — Jobs and job security are under threat at the Austin and Repatriation Medical Centre, formed in a recent amalgamation between Heidelberg and Austin hospitals in Melbourne's north-eastern suburbs. The proposed cuts are part of the state government's overall privatisation agenda.

At a meeting on March 22 of members of the Health Services Union of Australia (HSUA) at the Heidelberg campus, it was announced that the government intends to cut 70 jobs from that campus and 150 positions from the Austin campus.

At Heidelberg, 20 of the positions will be made vacant through redundancy packages and 50 will be temporary, three-month contract positions. None of these positions will be refilled.

Other jobs are under threat of privatisation. All remaining staff will have to reapply for their positions, and if successful will be put on contracts controlled by private personnel companies. Conditions such as long service and annual leave will inevitably be eroded. It will also result in the closure of wards.

A letter from the new chief executive officer of the centre, Dr Michael Stanford (a Kennett government appointee), to the union refers only to 100 jobs at the Austin campus which are to be made vacant. The state government is to offer "voluntary departure packages" for these positions. Stanford's letter does not mention whether any of these positions will be refilled.

The letter also indicates that remaining health workers will have to trade off conditions if they want a pay rise. Hospitals across Victoria have already recorded a 32% increase in "productivity" after job shedding. Of course, the government's version of productivity is myopic, measured in the decrease in the number of people on the payroll.

Members of the HSUA at the Heidelberg and Austin campuses have told Green Left Weekly that information about the amalgamation and the privatisation of positions is unclear and very confusing. While the HSUA leadership has informed workers of the proposed changes, it is at present not making real attempts to clarify their impact. Members are not fully informed about what takes place at meetings between union leaders and management.