CI-23 - A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step

Friday 27 Sep 2019

Chinese philosopher Laozi’s famous saying is a good description of where Commissioner’s Instruction 23 (CI-23) is currently at, the first step of a long and difficult journey.

In our last report we laid out our concerns about the glacially slow implementation of a process to address CI-23 by the Health Service Providers (HSPs). Nearly 12 months after being announced, we have had no more than a handful of the nearly 5,000 fixed term contract and casual employees converted to permanency.

We know the instruction is not going to by itself turn the tide on the improper use of insecure employment in Health. But it’s an important tool to deliver permanency to long deserving individuals and drive change in hiring practices.

Disappointingly, each HSP has failed to properly communicate with their staff and the union about their progress. Earlier in the year the HSPs did inform the union of the numbers of employees eligible for review, but that is where the information sharing stopped.

Over the past five weeks we have written to each of the HSPs and met with most of them, including several of the Chief Executives. We have also met with the Minister for Health and a number of times with System-Wide Industrial Relations and will meet with the Director General of Health next week.

Our strong message has been that the HSPs have not prioritised CI-23 and have failed to allocate the resources to follow it. More broadly the scale and complexity of the process across Health has been underestimated. Poor record keeping and a lack of understanding about how the instruction’s criteria should be applied have added to the problem.

We have said to the HSPs that we want a detailed timeline for the completion of the Cl-23 review and a monthly report to the union that includes:

For each department/ cost centre:

When the review is scheduled to occur If the review is underway, where it is up to

If the review is completed: what cut-off date was used to class the group of employees reviewed; how many employees were reviewed and how many were converted to permanency; what the staffing numbers/ proportions of permanent/ fixed term/ casual employees were before the review and what they are afterwards; and for every fixed term and casual employee, the reason for them not being converted to permanent.

The union has also asked that:

When an outcome decision is made and those decisions released to employees that the union also be advised (most are being released in small batches).

If an employee wishes to dispute/ query the decision applied to them - that the union be provided with copy of review checklist/ materials used in review.

If a decision was based on lack of ‘ongoing funding for the role’ then the union to be provided with the information that supported this proposition.

Some HSPs have started to expedite the allocation of the resources (people and processes) required to comply with the instruction. Some HSPs are proving unco-operative and have provided little or no clear information.

We think this in part stems from a continuing reluctance on the part of HSP senior managements to accept the principle message of CI-23 and the State Labor Government that permanent employment should be the rule rather than the exception.

It is noteworthy that in the HSPs responses they have not challenged the data we put to them which shows permanent employment is only in the 60 – 65% range. We believe permanent employment should be at least 90%, there is no good reason for anything less.

CI-23 was announced with the fanfare of a significant promise of thousands of public sector workers achieving permanency – around 40% of the 28,000 fixed term contract and casual employees across the state’s agencies. Based on experience in the wider Public Sector and the very limited results in Health, CI-23 will not deliver anywhere this level of conversion.

We know this is part of a long-term fight for permanency for our members. We also know that this process is shining a light on poor, inefficient employment practices that put many people in a position of ongoing insecure work in the Public Sector for no good reason.

While there is a long, long way to go, there is no escaping what is being uncovered – ie: 5, 7, 11, and 22 years of rolling fixed term contracts without reason. We will be writing and meeting with every HSP and stakeholder to push this process along as quickly as possible as we head to the end of the year.

We remain concerned that a lack of consistency in how CI-23 will be interpreted and applied may result in needless dispute. We are preparing how to best manage this.

If you receive an outcome that is not positive, and you have concerns about how the outcome was reached you can contact the union. We can discuss your outcome with you and if you choose, follow up with the HSP on your behalf to examine the basis on which they made to the decision, including the records they relied upon.

This enquiry may end with there being a clear reason for why the permanency was denied, in accordance with the instruction, or it may reveal a problem with the decision-making process that the union can assist you in challenging.

If you have been told that you are not eligible for conversion to permanence and you want that decision reviewed then please send the notice you have received from your employer plus any relevant documents to union@hsuwa.com.au .

Please be aware we expect this process to go well in to the New Year

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