For secure jobs and better conditions The Progressive PSA brings together rank and file trade union activists in the Public
Service Association of NSW and the CPSU (SPSF Branch). We work for:
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  • improved and more equitable pay
  • sustainable jobs in a sustainable environment
  • a democratic and strong union
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    Members will be aware that the new award for Accommodation and Respite (A&R) staff came into effect in October 2010 along with the new Team Leader model for group homes and respite units. The new award includes the new classifications of Disability Support Worker (DSW) and Team Leader and a new entitlement for casual DSWs to receive overtime payments.

    These changes are welcome for many members but there are also some rights and entitlements under the new award that have been reduced and restricted. To date ADHC and PSA management have been silent about this.

    The PSA office has announced that it soon plans to conduct state-wide joint briefing sessions in conjunction with ADHC management about the new award.

    Members might consider asking PSA officials at the briefing sessions the following questions:

  • Were some conditions traded off in exchange for others?
  • Will members be consulted and included in negotiations in future?
  • Will the union office explain all key award changes, both positive and negative?
  • What guarantees do we have that casuals will be offered a contract when working a regular line?
  • When will we see all award conditions properly enforced?
  • There is nothing necessarily wrong with trading off certain conditions that may be obsolete or not fully utilised by employees for other improvements in conditions. Many members will be pleased that casuals can now enjoy overtime payments in line with other employees. Indeed casuals should never have been excluded from this entitlement in the first place.

    The key problem with these changes is that they were negotiated and agreed to by a select few in closed door meetings with the employer without membership consultation or involvement. Members have not even been fully informed about the nature of these award changes let alone been party to the agreement.

    An alternative

    Strong unions involve members in the negotiation process whenever conditions are up for grabs. With the combined power of the membership we stand a better chance of securing improvements without giving up conditions. As PSA members, we have the power to mobilise and fight for our rights collectively.

    To secure the best outcome members need to have broad input into award changes and drive the negotiation process rather than be relegated to the role of spectators and only informed of changes after the fact.

    Whenever members are involved in campaigning, we stand a better chance of holding on to our conditions. The PSA is most effective when all of us are included in decision making, thereby putting power in the hands of members on the floor using the strength of the whole union to get the best possible deal.

    Award changes you weren't told about:

    Under the new award the length of time a casual needs to work regular shifts before being offered a contract has been extended, possibly indefinitely. The previous award stipulated that:

    "A casual employee may not work predetermined roster vacancies or more than five consecutive shifts without being offered a temporary term of employment," meaning that if a casual was rostered to work more than five shifts in a row, they were to be offered a contract. That subclause has been replaced with the following:

    "Casual… employment for fixed or regular hours for a single period in excess of 4 weeks would in most instances be as a temporary employee"

    meaning that under the new award a casual can now work a line on the roster for up to four weeks without being offered a contract after which time they would "in most instances" be offered a contract. The proviso "in most instances" is worrying because it leaves the door open for casuals to be rostered to work regular hours on a casual basis indefinitely.

    In fact, Red Tape frames this change in conditions in a positive light when it is actually an erosion of casuals’ rights.

    Some casuals do not want to work on contract but many others do. All casuals should at least be given the opportunity to choose whether they would like to access award entitlements such as sick leave, rec. leave, etc. on a temporary contract rather than be forced to remain casually employed.

    The requirement to offer part-timers in the first instance and then casuals a contract for vacancies lasting longer than five days forms part of the rostering principles. However, the rostering principles do not have the same legal status as the award – it is a weaker industrial instrument.

    Other changes under the award now make it harder for support staff to take time in lieu. The new award states that time in lieu "must be taken at the convenience of the Department". Previously time in lieu was taken by the "mutual agreement of the officer and their local management".

    Also, now time in lieu needs to be taken in two hour blocks unless otherwise approved where no such restriction previously existed. Furthermore, a previous requirement that records of time in lieu be kept on site has been scrapped.

    In another change, clause 25 Mobility of Staff has been modified to include the following:

    (i) All staff members are recruited to a Region, not a unit. The movement of staff members within the Region will occur in a reasonable manner.

    (ii) Staff may be rotated through shifts at various units… for purposes including “to meet client support needs” and “to meet workforce requirements”.

    This change now gives management the right, under the award, to move staff anywhere within a region for virtually any reason at all.

    The new award also removes two clauses which previously gave the union the right to be consulted over rates of pay where new job roles and classifications are introduced into the award. The following two clauses no longer appear in the award,

    18. New Classifications
    The employer should not create any new classification within the Association's coverage, to which these conditions apply, unless the Association agrees on the rate of wages to be fixed for the duties performed.

    29. Leave Reserved
    Leave is reserved to the Association to apply, based on the Work Value Principle, for a review of remuneration in respect to Residential Support Workers who are required to undertake additional Health Care procedures introduced subsequent to the making of this Award.

    It appears that the PSA hierarchy has conceded to management the right to move staff at will, the right to determine rates of pay and gradings for new positions inserted into the award and restrict time in lieu without membership consultation or involvement. It is time the union leadership stopped trading off conditions without our knowledge and started working with members to stop conditions being stripped away.

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    Contact us at: ppsa@progressivepsa.org