Mental health EBA negotiations
We are aware that members are well and truly ready for this agreement to be finalised. We share your frustration that these negotiations are approaching the 12-month mark.
We have conveyed this sentiment to all bargaining parties, as we continue to meet weekly with Victorian Hospitals’ Industrial Association, HACSU and the Victorian Department of Health, with ongoing facilitation by former Fair Work Commissioner David Gregory.
However, it is fair to report that we have agreement in principle on the majority of our priority claims that members endorsed at the Delegates Conference back in 2019.
As you will read below, we have achieved some important gains in relation to community nursing claims and we would like to acknowledge and thank our community and crisis team delegates who met with us (virtually) on 8 April 2021 to provide important feedback around these new developments.
Progress on members’ EBA claims
We have seen some positive progress in relation to our community mental health nursing claims.
Members will recall that we had multiple claims relating to community mental health. These included: a transition to minimum 2/3 nursing skill mix, nurse for nurse backfill and tighter processes around recruitment.
We can report there has been progress for all these claims, despite not being agreed by all parties, and we welcome this recognition of the critical role that nurses play in community and crisis teams.
The need for better local mental health services was echoed throughout the royal commission report which highlighted the need for consumers, families and carers to receive the treatment and support they need closer to home.
We know that nurses in community teams have a significant role to play now and into the future and ANMF will continue to defend their distinct expertise and value in community teams.
Another significant claim that has agreement in principle subject to costings is our claim in relation to high dependency unit/ low dependency unit staffing as it relates to clause 92.4.
We have identified the health services where this clause had inadvertently led to increased workload in the LDU as a result of the requirement to meet the introduction of ratios for HDU as part of this important win for members from the previous round of bargaining. We are happy to report back that these imbalances have been agreed to be corrected by VHIA. We know this will be very welcomed by our members who have been raising this workload issue since the clause was introduced.
Despite the above wins, a critical outstanding claim for our members is improvements to existing staffing profiles in mental health units across the state.
ANMF has long advocated for ratios in mental health, long before any other party, and at a minimum preserved staffing profiles in the industrial instrument.
We are very disappointed to relay to members that this priority claim remains unresolved at this time. At a minimum we have asked the VHIA to confirm existing staffing profiles, and as previously reported, we have provided extensive data to assist this process.
VHIA has instead provided its own raw staffing data, to which ANMF laboriously went through and highlighted the apparent staffing differences in what employers and ANMF members were reporting. To date we are yet to have those differences confirmed or denied, despite multiple requests.
This remains an outstanding and priority claim and we can reassure our members that we know how urgently these staffing improvements are needed.
Discussions and exchange of drafts for ANMF claims continue
ANMF continues to offer to meet with our fellow union counterparts, on claims where we hold a shared view. A particular example is the Community Workload Management System (CWMS) and the specific proposal for crisis teams whereby we have worked together to ensure that any new proposal for crisis teams is reflective of their particular needs.
HACSU industrial action
ANMF understands that HACSU has escalated its protected industrial action campaign.
ANMF respects the right of any union to take protected industrial action whereby they feel that is in the best interest of their members. We also acknowledged that ANMF only represent nurses in mental health, and we understand that HACSU represent many other disciplines with respect to this agreement.
Whilst we understand and recognise the difficulty in working alongside colleagues undertaking protected industrial action, it is not our view or recommendation for our members that protected industrial action is warranted at this time. We do want to strongly remind our ANMF members that they are not required to complete additional tasks or undertake any activities vacated by their HACSU colleagues, arising as a result of them engaging in protected industrial action.
It is also critical that our members understand that only HACSU members are legally entitled to take protected industrial action.
Mental health royal commission final report
Members would be aware that the royal commission handed down its final report on 2 March 2021. This is a watershed moment for all nurses working in mental health but also the wider health workforce and the whole community. It is critical that all of our members understand that this royal commission and the forecast changes will have significant impacts beyond the mental health system. ANMF has been working diligently on developing a plan of member engagement activities and publications to assist our members in understanding the report, recommendations and impact. Please keep an eye out for upcoming events and ensure you register well ahead of time to secure a place.
In terms of the EBA, ANMF has expressed support for a royal commission facilitative clause which provides for the establishment of royal commission working group to ensure that any changes as a result of the report’s findings can be implemented and reflected in the agreement as required.
Negotiations have recommenced for our Forensicare members. Similarly, to the general mental health agreement claim, we have a claim for increased prison nurses across Forensicare facilities. We have provided data from our members about the current staffing profile and have received data back from Forensicare that we are currently seeking to confirm with our Forensicare members. Given the clear need identified in the royal commission report for more forensic mental health beds, it is obvious that we need more forensic mental health nurses. We know that there is much afoot at Forensicare right now, and there will be much more work ahead with regards to these negotiations. We continue to encourage our delegates and members to contact ANMF with any queries or concerns via email@example.com.
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