An opinion expressed by the Fair Work Commission in favour of the employers and against the VHPA has shown the need to improve the drafting of key clauses in the Public Sector Health Agreement.

Despite mounting a vigorous argument in the Commission, the VHPA has so far been unable to win an earlier start date for the recent 1.25% pay rise for public sector Health Professionals.

Fair Work Commissioner Cribb acknowledged that the VHPA’s argument ‘had merit’ but indicated that she believed the public hospitals were entitled to delay the pay rise until the first full pay period commencing on or after 1 October.

The VHPA had argued that under the terms of the Public Sector Health Agreement the hospitals were required to provide the pay rise from the pay period that included 1 October.

The delay in passing on the increase has meant many members have missed out on up to a fortnight of the pay increase — that is, up to $33.75.

“The Commissioner was sympathetic to our argument and agreed that the wording was an antiquated reflection of the contemporary scenario,” said Craig McGregor, VHPA Secretary.

“The wording” he continued, “is problematic and has no place in our agreement.”

“This is yet another example of poor drafting that has let members down; make no mistake, we will be rectifying this issue as soon as possible.”

Further action under consideration

“There are various avenues open to us and we are considering our options in terms of taking the pay rise issue further,” said Craig McGregor.

“It is clear that the logic behind the delay in passing on hard-won pay rises is no longer relevant and constitutes little more than a blatant rip-off.”

In days gone by it was necessary to individually hand-calculate pay packages. As such an increase starting during a pay period may have been difficult and time consuming to administer. However today, where computer payroll systems do most of the calculations, this difficulty is of little relevance.

“Whether we decide to take further action or not, the opinion of the Fair Work Commission has revealed yet another area of weakness in the Public Sector Health Enterprise Agreement.”

“If we are to overcome this, and the plethora of issues that lie before us, we will need to bolster our membership support significantly before the next round of public sector Agreement negotiations.”