There has been discussion on a number of forums as to whether operational staff can access the 20 days of COVID leave, which is available to nurses, teachers and other public sector employees.
It’s good to see that our colleagues at UWU are also campaigning for COVID leave. The more pressure the better. The AEAWA have been working on COVID leave since the beginning of the pandemic. To recap the situation until now:
On 18th March 2020 the AEAWA Executive requested to meet personally with Michelle Fyfe to discuss the developing COVID 19 threat. At that meeting we strongly advocated that St John match the McGowan government’s 20 days of COVID Leave for public sector employees. This request was of course declined, and the CEO instead created a mechanism for employees to become 152 hours negative in personal leave balance. Not particularly helpful, but discussions continued.
On 23rd April 2020 (looking for another avenue to protect our members) we wrote to Hon. Bill Johnston (Minister for Industrial Relations) requesting presumptive cause amendment be tabled to the Workers Compensation Act which would mean healthcare workers would not have to prove they acquired the disease at work (viewed here). This subsequently came to fruition, and now healthcare workers who contract COVID-19 will be presumed to have contracted the virus at work. This means that if you obtain a First Medical certificate and submit the usual workers compensation claim forms, your sick leave should be reimbursed.
On 14th August 2020 the AEAWA wrote to Premier McGowan and then Health Minister Roger Cook, requesting that the State Government extend the 20 days COVID-19 leave to ALL ambulance employees, being that we are a WA Health sub contractor, an essential service and front line health workers. This was declined, with the Premiers office citing legal advice received that would make it illegal to extend COVID 19 to a private enterprise.
At the commencement of EBA bargaining, the AEAWA were the only bargaining group to raise a claim for 20 days COVID leave. Unfortunately this claimed failed, with St John refusing it outright and indicating that it ‘would financially cripple the organisation’ because they do not have the financial backing of the State treasury, as do public sector industries.
At present, if you contract COVID-19, you should be able to successfully make a Workers Compensation claim, and therefore protect your leave balance. We say should because it’s yet to be tested here in WA, but it should be solid. Please ensure you see a medical practitioner and complete a First Medical as you would for any other injury or workplace illness.
We have also written to the CEO asking for the organisation to ‘repurpose’ the JobKeeper subsidy (thought to be $10,000,000-$15,000,000) to create a COVID-19 paid leave fund for critical employees.
There has been NO acceptance whatsoever of performing ANY training on days off. In fact, we’ve not been consulted about this at all, but we’ll be writing to St John. To be clear, you are under NO obligation to do this on days off.
In regards to the risk of the new skill, we understand there is likely to be several different viewpoints and perceptions of the inherent risk in RAT testing. What we can say is that we’ve had correspondence from people who feel the skill may expose them unnecessarily, while yet others have asked if we can push for point of care RAT tests, so that they can be more aware of the infectious status of the patient.
Clearly there is not a consensus. While many of our existing skills can carry an infection risk, or risk of physical injury, we do appreciate that we also don’t need to add to the risks we already face. However, without being infection control experts or RAT testing experts, we’re not best place to weigh this risk. What we can say, is that a general principle of workplace OH&S law is that you must must be provided with adequate training and PPE, to safely undertake a task. If you don’t feel provided with adequate training or PPE, to SAFELY perform ANY task, then you should not put yourself at risk.
AMBULANCE OFFICER CREWS
Another day, another surprise. Today, alleged ‘consultation’ with employee representatives took place AFTER the initiative was announced to the entire workforce. The AEAWA have serious concerns with this proposal, and with the lack of consultation. We’ll be discussing this development urgently with senior leadership and will advise once we know more.