Last week, the Southern NSW Local Health District announced details of a restructure that has been in the making for four years. In a press release on Thursday, Chief executive Margaret Bennett said there will be no forced redundancies.
However, staff and union representatives say they are very concerned about the changes being put forward, which will see 53 full-time managerial and support staff impacted and a further 219 people affected through changes to reporting lines and pay grades.
Health Services Union organiser for the Southern Heath District, Mark Jay, said his organisation has lodged a claim with the Industrial Relations Commission, which will be heard on 5 October.
“The document they’ve presented to our members is 458 pages long and is riddled with errors,” he said. “The district has given us a month to consult but it’s not long enough when the document doesn’t answer even the simplest questions about job security of staff.”
Mr Jay met with about 40 South East Regional Hospital staff in Bega on Monday night (21 September) and said the primary concern among staff is that the restructure will result in positions which involve more responsibility and a bigger workload but are two to three pay grades below their current positions.
“It is critical to note at the outset that there will be no forced redundancies and that 27 new positions will be created,” said Ms Bennett in a press release on Thursday, 17 September. “All of our staff will remain employed following the implementation of the proposed restructure. There is an absolute commitment to support staff through this process.”
Staff are also concerned about having to relocate within the district – which stretches from Queanbeyan to Eden, through the Monaro region – to maintain their current paygrade, said Mr Jay.
“The district will reallocate and support impacted employees to move to other meaningful roles, and take up vacancies as they become available during the next year,” said Ms Bennett. “To the greatest extent possible, all of these staff will be matched into like positions.”
Another stipulation causing concern among union members is there will be a 12-month salary maintenance period for those affected by the restructure, but there is no detail given about what will happen after the period expires.
“Our members are asking, ‘What will happen to me? My position is not in the document,” said Mr Jay. “There’s a lot of anxiety among our members and it’s difficult to make meaningful decisions when the detail is not there.”
The Southern NSW Local Health District maintains the majority of its 3000 staff will not be impacted by the restructure.
“The proposed new structure will best enable Southern NSW Local Health District to meet the needs of the community we serve, both now and into the future, with the establishment of three new geographic networks to support their communities along with two new district directorates for mental health, drug and alcohol, and integrated care,” said Ms Bennett in the press release.
A Eurobodalla health worker, who wishes to remain anonymous, said the restructure document does not take into account the increasing importance of medical staff or the need for job security that events such as bushfires and COVID-19 have highlighted.
“Our region has been destroyed by bushfires and lost tourism dollars thanks to COVID-19,” said the anonymous health worker. “Local families can ill afford a reduction in their income now. Public health staff have already sacrificed our usual annual pay increase while working harder than ever during the pandemic.”
Ms Bennett said the next step is to continue to consult with staff and unions, incorporating their feedback into the document.
Mr Jay said the document is not completed and needs further work before there can be genuine consultation.