No Recognition for the Efforts of Health Workers this State Budget

Friday 13 May 2022

HSUWA says WA Health Workers are being ignored. With a health system under continued pressure, soaring inflation rates, and another large budget surplus the State Government has not recognised the efforts of health workers in the State Budget announced on Thursday 12 May.

You can view the HSUWA State Budget Submission 2022-23 here.

HSUWA members are asking for a return to genuine bargaining wage with no cap on wages and instead an increase of at least 4% or CPI (whichever is greater). The State Government did not move from its State Wages Policy announced in December 2021 (4 days before Christmas) which means public sector wages will keep going backwards in real terms.

Naomi McCrae, Secretary of the HSUWA said, “A stringent wages cap has been replaced with another cap which does not keep up with the cost of living. The endless public sector wage suppression is against everyone’s interests and will actually end up costing Western Australians more – as services are increasingly affected.”

McCrae said, “WA can’t afford to lose any more workers from the health system. Our members, across areas like Allied Health, Pharmacy and Pathology, for example; are stretched to their limits. When will the Government realise that giving these workers the opportunity to genuinely bargain for a fair wage increase, will lead to better retention and attraction of a key, specialised workforce?”

McCrae continued, “The Government must give back to the hard-working people of this State who helped lift the Government out of the budget deficit cycle. They must not be ignored now and told to keep accepting a loss to their real wages. Our members in WA Health will not accept this. And our society cannot afford to lose them.”

As WA breaks new records for daily COVID-19 cases this week, workforce fatigue and retention is the number one critical issue for the health sector. HSUWA recently concluded an 8 week “Pulse Survey” program, where on average, 51% of respondents stated there were not enough staff in their department/area to manage the workload safely. That was before cases again peaked this week.

McCrae said, “Staff furlough in addition to huge number of vacancies within the health system places additional pressure on staff and services. Already experiencing a loss of real wages, in these conditions people are looking for a way out. Instead, we need to ensure that dedicated and experienced staff are looked after and retained.”

WA is currently in competition with the other States and Territories and international health systems for the recruitment of trained Health Professionals. Advertising campaigns is not the answer. Unless competitive wages, a strong safety culture and good conditions are offered, we will see more and more vacancies as the pressure on the workforce mounts.

McCrae said, “It’s clear this pandemic is going to be a test of endurance for the health workforce. For over two years, our front-line Health Workers have been battling it out – doing their jobs in PPE, managing extra demand with COVID protocols and putting themselves and their families at risk for the WA community. This needs to be recognised. They need to be paid more, and an additional (back paid) COVID Allowance would go some way to recognising their value, retaining staff and making the WA public Health System an attractive place to work for new recruits.”

The HSUWA along with Public Sector Alliance colleagues are calling for an urgent uplift to WA State Wages Policy commitments and the Union continues to advocate for a COVID allowance for front line health workers.

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