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Essential health workers will press their case today for state-wide industrial action to raise their concerns about privatisation and job cuts.

The workers and their union will attend a tribunal hearing after a last-ditch attempt to block industrial action late yesterday by the Marshall Government, which sought to overrule work bans at eight hospitals and health centres.

The South Australian Employment Tribunal ordered a compulsory conciliation this morning (EDS: 11.30AM WED).

The work bans are scheduled to start at 12 noon today.

Essential workers are launching rolling work bans to send a clear signal to the Marshall Government that privatisation of services and job cuts threaten the care of the state’s ill, elderly and most vulnerable.

The concerns about privatisation and job cuts have been fueled by a 14-month delay in reaching a new enterprise agreement with 7,000 South Australian health heroes who have been on the frontline of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The Marshall Government has been on notice about industrial action since March 3,” public sector director of United Workers Union, Demi Pnevmatikos, said.

“Workers continue to maintain their commitment to patient safety and protecting the health of our community, which is the reason they are taking industrial action in the first place.

“At the conciliation conference United Workers Union members welcome the opportunity to again stress how significantly patient care and safety would be affected by privatisation and cuts to the areas of essential work they perform every day.

“The real way the Marshall Government should be dealing with this issue is by sitting down with these essential workers to guarantee them secure jobs.

“After 14 months of negotiations the Marshall Government is still trying to scrap commitments currently in the agreement that block privatisation, and is still trying to abandon the agreement’s step-by-step process that protects workers and their communities from job cuts.

“All this does is signal, even in the midst of COVID-19, a government that is hell-bent on privatising our health services and cutting jobs held by these essential workers.”

Health heroes work in vital health roles including as hospital cleaners, patient services assistants, orderlies working in operating theatres and intensive care units, food services, sterilisation technicians, disability support workers and aged care workers, including in remote and regional areas.

During the COVID-19 crisis essential workers have been forced to fight for recognition as essential workers and are fighting for job security – to retain all current conditions and protecting the provisions in their current agreement – and a fair wage increase with back pay.

Ms Pnevmatikos said: “We’re telling the South Australian Government our health heroes deserve to be recognised for the essential work they do.

“The Marshall Liberal Government has failed to recognise the essential nature of the work they perform, failing to table an offer addressing members’ reasonable claims of job security and a modest wage increase while maintaining their current conditions so they can get back to keeping us safe in this COVID-19 pandemic.

“Treasurer Rob Lucas’ treatment of these workers, who we each rely on at a point in our lives, is outrageous. He is attempting to slash the working conditions of vital health workers. South Australians will not stand by and let that happen.”

United Workers member and health care worker Rebecca Reed said: “I can’t understand why the government wants to be able to make cuts to our jobs and won’t rule out further privatisation.

“We have not taken this step today lightly, but it is necessary to get our message out to the wider South Australian community: Please support us in our fight for a fair go, so we can focus on providing the best care possible,” she said.

United Workers member and health care worker Ricardo Ahumada said: “My colleagues and I are cleaning hospitals, delivering meals to sick people, pushing beds to ICUs, caring for the elderly, supporting people living with a disability. We worked incredibly hard on the front line of this COVID-19 crisis providing quality healthcare to the state’s most vulnerable, and to limit the spread of the virus to the community. Now we’re asking for your support.”


In 2020, in light of the COVID-19 crisis the public health system was facing, workers volunteered to roll over their current workplace agreement, keeping the status quo so everyone focussed on delivering services and keeping the community safe.

The Marshall Liberal Government refused, instead seeking the removal of job security and the removal of redundancy, redeployment and retraining provisions.

Workers are fighting to retain their current conditions and receive a modest and fair pay increase so they can get back to keeping us safe from the coronavirus pandemic.