A win to unrostered overtime is a step in the right direction but more needs to be done


A win to unrostered overtime is a step in the right direction but more needs to be done.

As reported last week, we have won significant concessions from NSW Health regarding unrostered overtime for medical officers (DiTs). The revised Employment Arrangements for Medical Officers in the NSW Public Health Service Policy Directive (Policy Directive) has now been published and is available online at https://www1.health.nsw.gov.au/pds/ActivePDSDocuments/PD2019_027.pdf .

Members would be aware that across NSW there was an unfair and legally dubious situation where DiTs were not paid for overtime worked. There were a number of reasons that lead to this, including entrenched workplace cultural expectations and structural limitations, including a Policy Directive which restricted what overtime could be paid without having prior approval.

So, what did we win?

There are now five areas of unrostered overtime that do not require prior approval. These are:

  • Late ward rounds
  • Hospital-based mandatory training
  • Completion of outstanding transfer / discharge summaries
  • Clinical handover
  • Hospital-based outpatient clinics.

This is a genuinely good result. We need to see some culture change around claiming overtime because it is only when we get the price signal of overtime that we can reduce it from the unacceptable and arduous levels that it is at in many work places.

What needs to happen now?

This is another step in the right direction to success on our claims that we gave to NSW Health in 2017 and builds on the wins from 2017 where NSW Health agreed to amend the Policy Directive to ensure no rostered shift would last longer than 14 hours and that there must be at least a 10-hour break between rostered shifts.

But we also need to keep campaigning to win real and meaningful change to working conditions and industrial protections for DiTs. And as part of that strategy winning changes to policy is good, but to ensure ongoing structural change we need to do more.

This is because the key sources of rights, entitlements and obligations of employees arise from instruments which plainly have legal effect, viz contracts of employment, legislation and awards.

Policies work well when they complement legally enforceable instrument. But as a standalone source of rights the legal effect of polices is far from straightforward. The fact that the employer has agreed to a policy does not convert policy into a legal obligation. In fact, a policy document adopted by NSW Health will only have legal effect if incorporated (expressly or impliedly) into another instrument which is enforceable, such as the Award.

But we play an important role in keeping NSW Health honest and to make sure each Local Health District abides by the policy provisions.

To achieve this, we will be implementing a four-prong strategy:

  1. Educate

We will engage with and educate DiTs on their right to work in a safe workplace. This will include rights under legislation, the Award and the Policy Directive.

  1. Monitor

By educating DiTs in their rights at work we can work together to ensure that all LHDs meet their obligation to provide a safe work place by meeting their obligations under the Policy Directive and other instruments.

  1. Activism

By engaging DiTs in a constructive dialogue about their rights and obligations and by increasing their awareness of their rights at work we will increase the level of activism of members empowering them to call out bad workplaces practices and to help us enforce the Policy Directive.

  1. Enforcement

We will make sure that NSW Health and the LHDs meet their obligations and commitments to DiTs, by exercising our legal rights as the industrial representative of DiTs. This may include using the provisions of the Industrial Relations Act to inspect rosters, and other work and salary related documents, talking to members about refusing to work unsafe hours and taking matters to the IRC or Supreme Court.

Hospital Health Check Survey

In our campaign to win improvements we need to get the evidence needed to support our argument. A key tool in this is the ASMOF/AMA Alliance Hospital Health Check Survey. It is important that all DiTs complete the survey here:   Hospital Health Check 2019