Discussions on the long-overdue Enterprise Agreement (EA) for Community Health Professionals have reached an impasse, with the employers’ bargaining representative refusing to genuinely negotiate.
It is outrageous that Community Health Professionals have not had a pay rise since November 2010. After being ‘decoupled’ from the Public Sector Agreement they used to always be part of, Community Health Professionals have missed out on several pay rises and have also been significantly disadvantaged in terms of professional development and other benefits.
It seems as if Community Health Professionals have almost been forgotten by their employers. Now the VHIA, which is negotiating on the employers’ behalf, is adding insult to injury by refusing to consider the very limited log of claims that has been put forward.
Community Health Professionals, through their Union Delegates, endorsed a short, realistic log of claims which would see some improvement to the current Agreement at minimal cost to Community Health Centres. Most importantly, the Union is proposing an expiry date in June 2014 which would ensure that next time the Enterprise Agreement for Community Health Professionals is a priority in its own right.
But instead of genuinely bargaining on these issues, the VHIA wants to simply extend the existing Agreement. They wanted no changes to employment conditions except for one and they want an expiry date of 2015. This would mean the Community Health Agreement would end at the same time as the Public Sector Agreement and once again Community Health Professionals would be treated as the ‘poor cousins’ of your public sector colleagues.
Given that Community Health employers agreed to separate their EA from the public sector in the first place, it is only reasonable they bargain with Community Health Professionals on your own issues and according to a separate timetable.
Back-pay is the carrot
In recent weeks the VHIA has been trying to win over the different employees that work in Community Health. They have been offering a ‘Memorandum of Understanding’ which would sidestep genuine negotiations in exchange for back-pay and a straight ‘roll over’ of the existing Agreement, with an expiry date the same as the Public Sector Agreement in 2015.
We understand that the Clerical Staff and Dental Assistants in HSU Branch 1 have accepted this offer. It means they will get back-pay sooner but we believe they will be worse off in the longer term. We also understand that the Dieticians, Psychologists and others that are covered by the MSAV have accepted a different deal which is still much better than what is being offered to Community Health Professionals.
The Health Professionals Union is not prepared to do a deal that is unfair and which will disadvantage members both now and in the future. We certainly don’t see why Health Professionals are worth less than other staff in the Community Health sector.
Letters will soon arrive at the Boards of Community Health Centres to explain our position and to seek their support. We don’t believe the VHIA has been properly consulting with all of the Boards of management and many Board members would be shocked by the lack of genuine bargaining.
Time to get involved
In the next few weeks it is likely that employers will seek to convince Community Health Professionals to accept the current offer so you can get your back-pay. We want you to SAY NO to the current offer.
We want a genuine bargaining process that properly respects your sacrifice in terms of no pay rise for nearly three years and that has the prospect of delivering real improvements on the current sub-standard Enterprise Agreement, if not now, then in the bargaining over the next Agreement.
Now is the time for you to be actively involved. Please inform your colleagues and encourage them to join the Union. We need you to stay in touch with us so you can be informed as things develop. And let us know what you are being told by your employer so we can verify it.
The Union is currently arranging a series of urgent workplace meetings. Please make sure you attend one of these meetings and that we have your updated contact details — both mobile phone and email.
>> Link to previous article on Community Health campaign