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Industrial action by essential health workers fighting against privatisation of vital health services will continue after a failed bid by the Marshall Liberal Government to block the workers.

“The Marshall Liberal Government has monumentally failed in its application to stop all industrial action – out of 172 work bans, 148 are continuing,” South Australian public sector director Demi Pnevmatikos said.

“Our South Australian health heroes are able to continue their fight against privatisation at all eight facilities.”

In an interim order the South Australian Employment Tribunal imposed minor alterations to work bans at six of the eight hospitals and medical centres where work bans are taking place.

Despite Treasurer Rob Lucas’s alarmist rhetoric, work bans covering cleaning, catering and other areas of hospital services are all still continuing.

“Essential health workers will continue raising their concerns about privatisation of vital health services, which the Marshall Liberal Government is refusing to rule out, and fighting for the right of essential health workers to secure jobs,” Ms Pnevmatikos said.

“The ruling by the tribunal shows the Marshall Liberal Government’s original complaints were overblown, unfair and shows how this government attacks essential health workers who are supported by the community.

“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.

“In the midst of a global pandemic, this government remains hell-bent on privatising vital health services.”

However Ms Pnevmatikos flagged a likely appeal to the ruling, which also seeks to stop workers from imposing more work bans.

“The tribunal hearing brought on by the Marshall Liberal Government is a full-frontal attack on some of the lowest-paid workers in the state providing some of the most essential services in our community,” Ms Pnevmatikos said.

“Restricting workers’ rights to lawful industrial action is a draconian step that is aimed at silencing thousands of South Australia’s essential health workers.

“It comes on top of last week’s admissions by SA Treasurer Rob Lucas that he’s keeping his options open to privatise parts of the state’s health services, with ensuing cuts to jobs and services.

“Orderlies, hospital cleaners, food service workers, disability support workers and aged care workers are not going to put up with threats to their jobs.

“Over coming days we will be seeking the views of our members about their reaction to this unfair attack on their jobs and the services they provide.”

Locations of work bans:

  • Flinders Medical Centre
  • Glenside Health Services
  • Repatriation General Hospital
  • Lyell McEwin Hospital
  • Port Lincoln Hospital
  • Naracoorte Hospital
  • Whyalla Hospital
  • Strathalbyn Hospital and Aged Care

Work bans will be unique to each worksite. Activities that could be subject to work bans could include paperwork completion, rubbish and linen collection, receipt and restocking of stores. Work bans undertaken by United Workers Union members will not compromise patient safety.


In 2020, in light of the 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.