THE union representing South Gippsland Shire staff is on the attack.
They’ve come out all guns blazing after the shire announced the previous week that it was “exploring options for future provision of Aged and Disability Services in South Gippsland through discussions with Gippsland Southern Health Service”.
In a media release last week, the Australian Services Union (ASU) claimed the shire had failed to consult properly with its staff and that the move breaches multiple clauses of the enterprise agreement.
Fifty jobs and 300 volunteers are affected, they say, not to mention the 1300 clients
“CEO Tim Tamlin was conspicuously absent when the bad news was delivered to staff last Thursday afternoon,” the ASU said.
“His inaction will send many to the scrapheap.”
“Council has been prepared to boot them.”
“South Gippsland’s councillors snuck off in private to make a disgraceful decision to save a few bucks at the expense of older Victorians.”
The gloves are certainly off and the hammer has fallen hardest here because South Gippsland has been the first to react to the funding changes announced by the Federal Government.
Unsure whether it can compete (or wants to complete) in the new funding environment, the shire is concerned outside service providers might “cherry pick” easy-to-access clients in the main towns of Leongatha, Korumburra, Foster and Mirboo North while leaving remotely located residents out.
The shire hopes that by moving early, they can settle all clients in with the key service provider in the area, well before the changes come into force, and that most of their own staff can go across and contiuue to do the work.
There may, however, be job losses.
The cost to ratepayers isn’t the main problem, getting the best result for aged and disabled clients is the first priority, but money is an issue.
According to Mr Tamlin, ratepayers already contribute $410,000 to subsidise aged and disability services in the area and it’s expected that cost could go higher under the new system.
“The best outcome would be for the staff that our clients have come to rely on, continue with the work they do in a seamless transition. That’s why we’ve moved now and not waited until it’s too late,” Mr Tamlin said.
But the unions will hear nothing of it.
The shire council’s moves are little more than a betrayal, they say, although it’s interesting to note that their statement to staff came with an ASU Membership Application Form attached, we’re told.
Here’s an excerpt of what the ASU had to say:
“Once promoting an age-friendly South Gippsland, the Shire Council have now begun the process of stripping vulnerable residents of their home and community care services. Blaming possible federal funding changes that aren’t planned until 2020, they’ve jumped at the chance to transition clients out of their care.
“Without a genuine bid for an in-house service delivery, without consultation with staff or the union, Council, in a closed session, decided to handball the care of 1300 people, that will see 50 local jobs and a 300 strong volunteer service wiped out,” said the Australian Services Union’s Cameron Wright.
“Introduction of change, best value and security of employment. Clearly there’s been no consideration for the hard working, loyal staff that have provided many years of quality care in the region.
“CEO Tim Tamlin was conspicuously absent when the bad news was delivered to staff last Thursday afternoon. Reportedly he’s saddened to lose such a dedicated team and hopes that they will find new employment.
“The CEO’s comments are disingenuous; this funding issue is not a done deal, how about he rolls up his sleeves and fights for his staff, fights for the clients who they treat like family? Unemployment in the region is rising, his inaction will send many to the scrap heap.
“Victoria’s council run home care service is highly valued. South Gippsland Shire might want to give ex-councillors at Bendigo a call. Their closed session decision to withdraw from home care back in 2015 didn’t come to fruition; the community wouldn’t stand for it.
“The local government home care workforce is predominantly female, it’s stable with well-trained, experienced workers who are committed to providing quality services that include personal and domestic assistance, social support, home maintenance and the iconic meals on wheels. It exists to ensure that people can live independently in their own homes for as long as possible. Those that rely on the service will not take to change as easily as Council has been prepared to boot them.
“We can’t understand why Council has been so hasty with this decision when the current funding arrangements have been locked in until at least 2020 and more than likely will continue in its current form beyond that time.”
They’ve urged the community leaders to back the staff by contacting local councillors.
Mr Tamlin acknowledged this week that affected staff were anxious and upset about the moves, both for themselves and their clients and he has issued a statement to clarify the situation.