Industrial stand-off at aged care facility

SALE Elderly Citizens Village staff have taken industrial action in their battle for higher pay.

According to a staff representative, from last Saturday staff have not completed written documentation, including the filling in of patients’ bowel charts or recording their vital signs.

They have stopped vacuuming public areas including the lounge, offices and hallways and have stopped unpacking linen and cleaning public toilets.

They have taken to wearing Health Services Union-emblazoned shirts and badges to work and have began to distribute material to residents’ families detailing the absence of a pay-rise since July 2010.

Village chairman Brenda Burditt said staff wages had, in fact, been accruing by three per cent since 2011, and a further three per cent in 2012.

She said management was currently offering a 3.25 per cent increase for staff, with medication-endorsed personal care attendants, who are permitted to distribute medication, offered the full four per cent increase the union was asking for.

Yet, she said, the union would not allow staff to vote on the agreement.

The Health Services Union said the proposed agreement did not address the concerns of staff and as such would not give its approval, referring the matter to Fair Work Australia.

HSU Victoria secretary Diana Asmar said the matter was far from over.

“The decision of Sale Elderly Citizens Village management to cease negotiation with HSU, in an attempt to steamroll through an unfair and unsafe agreement is appalling, and I would ask the residents of Sale and the Gippsland region to join us in condemning this unilateral and thoughtless action by the (village),” Ms Asmar said.

The HSU claims Sale Elderly Citizens Village has made cuts to the hours of employees directly responsible for resident care, while simultaneously increasing the amount of money it spends on consultants and administrative functions not essential to its core work.

It said management failed to recognise the importance of staff that were required to supervise trainees and dispense medication, as well as the additional workload involved.

It claims Sale Elderly Citizens Village is not providing a safe working environment for staff, through appropriate staffing levels, workloads and duties, thereby threatening residents’ health and safety a claim Ms Burditt strongly rejects.

The HSU said it wanted to see Sale Elderly Citizens Village meet pay requests that would result in staff wages falling into line with other work sites in the region, including Stretton Park Aged Care facility and approach the public sector award, adding it did not look like budging.

Currently Sale Elderly Citizens Village staff, with six years experience, according to the HSU, are paid, on average, $3.65 less a week, across skill groups one, six and eight, than Stretton Park employees and $22.41 less a week than the public sector agreement.

“While there may be points of difference between the HSU and the (village), we believe that an agreement can be reached through negotiations that are conducted in good faith,” Ms Asmar said.

“Apparently Sale Elderly Citizens Village management is of a different opinion, and their actions completely contradict any effort to act in good faith, as required by the Fair Work Act,” she added.

The union maintains the current industrial action at Sale Elderly Citizens Village was devised to ensure no residents were put at risk.