Thursday, 27 June 2024

It pays to be union: PSA CPSU NSW winning for members

The first half of the 2024 calendar year has been eventful for the PSA CPSU NSW. With the new Labor government rolling out its Machinery of Government changes, many members are experiencing restructuring, repointing, and relocations. But as always, your union is here to fight for your rights at work, and to ensure that employers treat staff fairly through all the disruption. The PSA CPSU NSW also continues to fight to ensure members’ workplaces are better and fairer spaces to work in. And your union has already had some great wins so far this year.

In late 2023, the PSA began proceedings against the Rural Fire Service (RFS) in the Supreme Court over its failure to comply with its award obligations. Broadly, the proceedings are dealing with two issues. The RFS’s failure to pay overtime to employees performing work before 7:30am and after 6:00pm on weekdays or any time on weekends or public holidays; and the RFS’s failure to allow employees to choose between paid overtime and leave in lieu of payment (which accrues at the same rate as overtime pay). The PSA has ensured that members will receive what the Award states they are entitled to; and negotiations are currently underway over what constitutes a reasonable amount of backpay.

On the subject of backpay, the PSA also had a win for Interpreters and Translators at Multicultural NSW (MNSW) when it was identified that the last pay increase won by the union had not been applied to the Crown Employees (Interpreters and Translators, Multicultural NSW) Award. The PSA raised this error with MNSW and after investigating the matter and contacting NSW Public Service Industrial Relations, the union confirmed the correct rates of pay. The Award was updated with the correct rates and members received back pay.

Early in 2024, Court Officers working in the Sheriff’s Office were transferred from general Scale to Clerk Grade 1/2. This was the result of a long campaign led by delegates and the PSA. The win meant an instant pay rise for our Court Officers, and the PSA received assurances from the Sheriff’s Office that no roles would be lost in the transition.

In February the PSA staged a rally at the Powerhouse Museum in Ultimo, just days before the institution’s closure, despite the Labor government promising at the election that the Museum was saved from closure. Just weeks later, the Art Gallery of NSW announced it was making up to 30 roles redundant. It is clear the state’s cultural sector is in a mess, and members are suffering. It was amongst this turmoil that the PSA established the first Cultural Institutions Advisory Group (CIAG). The group held its first meeting on 16 April, which was attended by the Minister for the Arts, John Graham, who listened to delegates raise the serious issues PSA members have in their respective institutions; and promised to keep up regular communication with the Group.

When a Principal refused to take action on a mould problem in a Lake Macquarie school, and instead told staff to work in a hallway, the PSA stepped in. The issue is now being addressed, creating a safer workplace for staff.

One of the state’s most crucial group of Public Sector workers, Child Protection Caseworkers, have been in crisis for far too long. Deflated wages, massive staff turnover and high vacancy rates, overwork, and dangerously high workloads – all ignored by the previous government – have pushed members to breaking point. The PSA has staged state-wide action in support of these workers with staff walk-outs, protests, and media calls taking place from the Northern Rivers down to the South Coast. Through this action, members, delegates and the PSA leadership have raised public awareness about the crisis. The PSA has received great media coverage for this campaign, and although the fight continues, the State Government is being made to take notice.

In news from the NSW Department of Communities and Justice, as part of a dispute lodged by the union in the Industrial Relations Commission, Judicial Associates employed since January 2020 will be entitled to a back-payment of $6,000. In recognition of leave and other entitlements under the Conditions Award the Commissioner agreed with the union that the back-pay claim should be settled in favour of the Associates. The union’s application for a new Associates Award will continue with the support of members and delegates.

We also had three further significant wins in Communities and Justice. Following PSA advocacy to increase onsite staffing, the NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal’s Parramatta registry has been converted to a permanent Guardianship registry. Moreover, thanks to PSA advocacy on restoring the Industrial Court functions of the Industrial Relations Commission, new roles have been created which will support existing staff and lighten the already heavy workload of the Commission.

Thirdly, a dispute was brought by the PSA against a change in rostering practices at PoliceLink which resulted in part time shift workers being deprived of public holiday entitlements. Following receipt of the PSA’s evidence and submissions, the NSW Police Force offered to resolve the dispute on the basis that it reverts to its previous rostering practices of pre-January 2022, and backpays employees.

Thanks to work from the PSA, a member working in Community Services was recognised as a Senior Caseworker due to the responsibilities she had taken on. The member had attempted to work out the promotion on her own, but it wasn’t until her union got involved was the situation rectified. In addition to her promotion, she received back pay from the Department of Communities and Justice.

The PSA is always looking for opportunities to make life easier for its members, even in the worst of all possible times. The PSA has teamed up with Osara Health to offer the Cancer Coach program. The program is for people who have been diagnosed with cancer or have had a family member diagnosed with cancer. The benefit will mean they receive one-on-one support, guidance, information and education from a trained professional. This program adds to the many other assistance programs offered to members to make life easier in difficult times.

As we move into the second half of 2024, the PSA will continue to push the government to keep its election promises, provide remuneration that acknowledges the increasing cost of living, and keep senior management accountable.

Yours in union,
Nicole Jess
President PSA CPSU NSW