Health workers step up campaign

Issue 

By Kim Linden MELBOURNE — Health workers in the recently formed North Eastern Health Care Network have stepped up their industrial campaign against the Kennett government's redeployment and redundancy packages, which began to be introduced on February 14. Health workers in all hospitals in the network — which covers the Austin Repatriation Medical Centre, Bundoora Extended Care, Fairfield, Mercy, Preston and Northcote Community Hospital and the Royal Talbot Rehabilitation Centre — aim to push the government into making a network-wide agreement on redundancy, redeployment and training. The dispute, which involves widespread work bans on cleaning and catering, also aims to win a special package for employees of Fairfield Hospital, which is due to be closed soon. The state government is offering a package to cleaning and catering staff who are to be made redundant or redeployed as a result of savage cuts to hospitals in the north-eastern network. The Health Services Union of Australia no. 1 branch has pointed out that the government's standard voluntary departure package offer is in fact a forced redundancy package and as such should contain more money. The government says that those who take the packages cannot apply for state public sector jobs for three years, and this applies to Fairfield employees. In addition, staff over 55 years old will receive less money. Union organiser Zora Marko told Green Left that the government's offer is "totally unacceptable. We want to see guarantees on redundancy, redeployment and retraining opportunities for people. We also want a guarantee that staff will be employed elsewhere within the hospital system."