Epworth are overstating the value of their latest pay offer and Health Professionals (HPs) should be sceptical of the figures management has provided to staff says the VHPA.

As well as cherry picking the most favourable pay rates for comparison; the figures cited by Epworth management aren’t entirely accurate.

Our analysis of the proposed wage rise shows the figures supplied by management overestimate how much some grades will be ahead of the Public Sector.

They also ignore the fact that the Public Sector HPs have more favourable conditions, such as regular Accrued Days Off. They further do not acknowledge the benefits (negotiated although not yet rolled-out) that will flow from the $14 million Better Structures Classification Review to the public sector—this should see HPs receive a new Continuing Professional Development (CPD) payment of up to $400 per year.

VHPA modelling also shows that the pay offer is inferior when compared to other competitors, including St Vincent’s Private, Healthscope, Ramsay and St John of God.

The Union is also sceptical about Epworth’s deferral approach (read cost-saving manoeuvring) to areas of the Agreement. Management has for instance agreed to the Union’s proposal to create a new and much needed pay point at the top of Grade 2 (Gr2 Yr5) on the condition that there is a 4-year moratorium on implementation — staff would not benefit from this until 2018! Most of Epworth’s competitors have this pay rate already or are due for it to commence this year.

“Under this proposal the wages and conditions of Epworth HPs will fall even further behind their colleagues in other health services,” said Jay Morrison, VHPA Organiser.

“Remember, a decent Enterprise Agreement isn’t just about wages; it’s about conditions that provide a proper work/life balance. We need to protect the conditions we have and not let Epworth give with one hand while taking with the other.”

“We will be keeping a close eye on the bigger picture. This Agreement, and its wages and conditions, will be in place for years to come,” said Jay Morrison.

Next steps for the Epworth campaign – it’s time for action

The VHPA is working hard to make sure this process is over as quickly as possible, but we’re not willing to agree to a sub-standard Agreement that trades off current staff conditions for an inadequate pay rise.

The main reasons the negotiation process has dragged on are Epworth management’s delay in providing details of their pay offer and their failure to meet the agreed deadlines.

Our next steps are, first, to continue encouraging HPs who are on Individual Agreements to join the VHPA on a confidential basis. These Agreements expire this year and Epworth is not obligated to renegotiate them. But if they do, HPs will have little bargaining power to keep their current conditions.

Second, we will be sitting down with management to go through their new 55-page proposed Enterprise Agreement. The VHPA has already found areas where the proposed Agreement conflicts with legislation and where there are instances of negative changes to conditions for HPs that Epworth have not highlighted or discussed (and, we must assume as a result, have tried to sneak through).

The third step we are taking is to survey HPs so they can indicate the types of action they are prepared to participate in to advance their claim.  This survey is being undertaken in advance of a formal Protected Action Ballot.

“Almost 90% indicated in our last survey that they were unhappy with the pay rise offer.  In order to bring them back to the table with an acceptable offer we need to show Epworth management you’re unhappy!,” said Jay Morrison.

“There is no point taking Industrial Action unless the vast majority of people will join in and, as a democratic organisation, our Members will always direct us,” said Jay Morrison.

>> Please fill in the Epworth Protected Action Survey by 5pm Thursday January 30 — email VHPA Member Assist for the link if you don’t already have it.
>> Request a meeting of HPs at an Epworth site over the next fortnight so that Jay Morrison can answer any questions about the negotiations.
>> For more information please contact your local Epworth delegate, or VHPA Organiser Jay Morrison on 1300 322 917.