Vic Health reveals new razor gang targeting 4000 public servants

Secretary of the Department of Health Victoria Euan Wallace has revealed the creation of a new razor gang that includes the head of Premier and Cabinet, Jeremi Moule, and Department of Treasury and Finance’s David Martine. They are charged with eliminating jobs in the health sector.

The cutting crew is just one of many expected as the Labor government, with negligible real opposition, carves out 4,000 jobs from the public sector to reduce state debt.

In a move that has quickly put powerful unions offside in the heavily industrialised Victorian public service, Wallace said that the newly created ‘Health Finance Board’ would meet weekly initially to look for cuts.

“We are a third of government expenditure,” Wallace told an all-staff town hall for his agency (start at five minutes in).

“There is a significant task ahead of us. I have invited my secretary colleagues Jeremy Moule, DPC [Department of Premier and Cabinet], David Martine DTF [Department of Treasury and Finance]; we are in the process of establishing a Health Finance Board,” Wallace told a Vic Health the all-in meeting.

“I mention this Finance Board because, if you get asked for information [from] the Finance Board, you’ll go ‘What the hell is the Finance Board?’,” Wallace said.

“It is a time-limited function, three of us coming together. Probably we’ll meet weekly in the first instance, and then less frequently ongoing,” Wallace said.

The Health Secretary said, “Hopefully with our colleagues in the sector we can put in place some planning so we can meet what is required of us.”

“We need to think deeply about how we organise ourselves as a department”.

“And if we’re honest, we sometimes hold onto things because we’ve always done them and they’ve always been done,” Wallace said.

The Victorian branch of the Community and Public Sector was (CPSU) less than impressed given the state government’s obligations to consult under the binding industrial agreement, describing Wallace’s comments as “surprising details of more widespread cuts” in communications to members.

“Fancy being so out of touch with the demands in health that you set up a razor gang and call it a health finance board and still believe in a vision that Victorians will be the healthiest people in the world while Health have already identified more than 300 of their own staff will go,” a union bulletin said.

“We’ve been focused on protecting vital jobs [and] cutting labour hire and consultancy duplication while Departments remain silent to their employees on how many and [whose] job is threatened in their patch.”

The CPSU said it has made “constant requests for this information, but clearly Departments have a plan to cut vital jobs.”

The CPSU has dug in and has pushed Health management back to the legal commitment made in their industrial agreement.

“The policy following our representations now makes it clear that these documents (our EBA’s, BPEC and Workload management) are the overarching ones to be followed as part of the move by Department employers to reprioritise resource,” the CPSU told members.

“These enforceable documents ensure staff in affected areas are not treated as a mere commodity but as a person who has contributed to the delivery of State services, and who therefore should be treated with respect.”

The guts of the fightback is not turfing staff just to meet targets, but redeploying staff to areas in need based on skills. The CPSU is talking up its power to blunt fiscally-driven cut targets against a background of a big health skills shortage — as you would.

The specific actions the CPSU is calling out include:

  • Reducing external advertisements for jobs to give members the best opportunity to stay employed if that is what they want.
  • Preventing the use of labour-hire and consultants in VPS work. This is still under discussion as the guidelines they wish to rely on are currently too wide.
  • Ensuring JSE is the primary source of advertisements for all vacancies and that external advertisement will only occur in areas exempt or quarantined from the cuts.
  • Funding to be provided to facilitate skill acquisition through short course training.
  • Compulsory redundancies being the last option and not the first.

The cuts are definitely coming. How they are applied remains to be seen. Negotiations continue.

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