Close on 100 Victorian Allied Health Professionals downed tools today as part of VAHPA’s long-running Defending Community Health campaign.
Workers in the long-neglected sector last received a wage increase some two and a quarter years ago. This delay has seen workers lose approximately $7000 in backpay—that is, when compared to their colleagues in the public sector (which, it is important to note, covers 55 incorporated community health centres).
It appears that the stand-alone community health sector is in for an ugly period as workers escalate their industrial action in both frequency and magnitude as part of a plan to ramp up the pressure on both the state government and the 29 employers in an effort to see the release of backpay.
Victorian Allied Health Professionals Association Secretary, Craig McGregor, informed the enthusiastic crowd that the bargaining parties were very close to finalising a deal after a period of intensive negotiations facilitated by the Fair Work Commission. However, he indicated that the matter of backpay was one members were unlikely to concede on.
“Why is it that the Andrew’s state government can find the money for nurses in the stand-alone community health sector (money that to works to ensure those nurses are no worse off than their colleagues in the public sector), but when it comes to Allied Health the money simply can’t be found?” asked VAHPA Secretary, Craig McGregor.
The Allied Health workforce knows the answer and have long know it. “Allied Health Professionals are second-class citizens in this state,” opined a group of Occupational Therapists who asked not to be named. “It’s as if we are being asked, or perhaps dared, to disrupt the upcoming state election, just like the paramedics did in order to win the respect of the Health Minister and Premier,” they concluded.
It is hard to refute this assertion. McGregor has been badgering senior advisors in the minister’s office, and in the Department of Health for some time now to no avail. In fact, in response to a formal request for an urgent meeting with Minister Hennessy in an effort to resolve this dispute, McGregor was asked if he preferred a meeting in “August or September”!
“Surely some backpay, after more than two years without a wage rise, is not too much to ask,” bemoaned a prominent and well-respected physiotherapist (who also asked to remain anonymous given the presence of a management stooge who appeared to revel in his task of taking photos rally attendees).
“And a little f**king respect would go a very long way too!” spat a young woman with a wavering voice that carried a clear message of determination.