The Future of Home Care is in our Hands
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27 Delegates Meet with Australian Unity

Last week, 27 United Voice Home Care delegates from across NSW met with representatives of Australian Unity senior management in the first of many consultation meetings. 

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These are notes taken by delegates Jane Grundy and Teresa Hetherington.

Update on transition:

Australian Unity are working towards a transfer date of 19th Feb which will fit in with the client billing cycle and our pay cycle.

Their motto is: Connect, Respect and Make it Possible.

Australian Unity staff will commence visits to every branch to introduce themselves from 19th February; visits are expected to be ongoing.

They don't yet fully understand exactly what/how homecare presently operate; it is expected to take from 6 to 12 months to start to see real changes. Changes will be staggered in order to minimise client and staff disruption and will likely include new technology and some staffing/office location.

At the time of transfer, there will be no immediate change or disruption to clients or staff; the focus will be on continuity of service. But, Australian Unity do want to implement change to the business long term. They are committed to genuine collaboration, and consultation will be important. They wish to significantly grow the business.

Introducing new technology:

One of the changes that Australian Unity wants to consult with members about is the introduction of new technology. Luckily our Award outlines at Clause 8 how that consultation should work.  Australian Unity’s proposal is to provide every care worker with a smart phone with access to email, phone, internet and their new app Procura. Training and support will be given, and rollout will be staggered. Procura is designed to use data from clients, staff and service types to match and roster workers. It is designed to boost efficiency by reducing travel times/distances between clients, diagnose changes in client needs and alter services to clients. Staff will be able to access rosters, client information, GPS and assistance if required. It also has internet and email, so workers will be able to access portals to policies, procedures, maps etc. The system uses standard mobile service coverage and can be used as normal where possible. Where access is not present, the app can still be used as normal, and it will store the information and will upload/download material when possible.

There are still some unanswered questions regarding mobile coverage in some areas which will be addressed. Workers asked whether self-rostering, which is in our present Award, will still be available with the new system. Australian Unity have an understanding of our present agreement and expect to be able to adapt Procura to suit. This will be part of the consultation.

United Voice Members Top 10 Questions for Australian Unity:

During the 140 meetings United Voice held across the state in October, members wrote down the questions they wanted answered by Australian Unity. While AU didn’t have all the answers, your delegates put the questions to them:

What's the job for care workers going to look like after two year contract finish? Teresa Hetherington – Greater Newcastle

There is a heavy expectation that after the 2 years, there will be significant opportunity for growth; we will need more staff not less to cover the services. We should expect to be doing more of what we want rather than what we are presently doing.

Will care workers still have training for advancement? Peter Griffin - Inner West Metro

Ongoing training is important and will be built on. The service will be heavily people focussed

Will our office location change? Sue Morton - Maquarie

Office locations will change in some places because they’re government buildings. AU is aiming for the offices to be more convenient and accessible for clients and workers - no more locked doors and buzzing in. Plans are presently underway in this regard.

Will care workers still receive Kms after the 2 years? Kay Ruhe - Illawarra

Km/travel allowance will continue as is at present, not yet known after the 2 years. In 2-5 years, clients will be funding this, so the expectation is to limit the expense and save costs. It is part of your Award, so any change to kms or travelling time will need to be agreed.

Will PPE still be provided? Kim Hitchcock - Bega

Australian Unity has a strong commitment to provide the right equipment/safety for staff.

What types of uniforms will care workers get? They need to fit all workers and be cotton. Liz Thompson - Lismore

AU is looking at uniforms but unknown as yet.

Will there be an increase in costs to clients? Lorna Whitford - Kempsey

The Federal Government has started implementing co-payments which will be rolled out; however, AU are conscious of the fixed incomes of clients. As for client fees - as the biggest provider (70%), Australian Unity expects to have some bargaining power with politicians to control this. Fees are 1) means tested and 2) moving toward co-contribution for clients.

After the two years will scope of client visits change? Gayle Scoullar – Deniliquin

No

Will you ensure that availability agreements stay the same? This is important to clients and care workers. Carolyn Grant - Wagga Wagga

Staff availability remains as per Award. This is not expected to change, as are the present working areas of staff.

Will you seek to integrate Aboriginal home care? Kim Walton – Moree Aboriginal Home Care

Australian Unity plans to support and grow while keeping a separate identity with a common platform.

Australian Unity says consultation with United Voice members is important. Will you commit to releasing us from duties and paying us so we’re not out of pocket for engaging in consultation? Jessica Boza - Illawarra

No firm commitment to release. AU will look at the Award (which does not guarantee paid release for consultation meetings). They committed to an ongoing discussion.

Yours in union,

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Jane and Teresa, home care delegates