The Hon. T.A. FRANKS (21:00): I move:
That this council—
1. Supports the Royal District Nursing Service (RDNS) SA frontline workers and Health Services Union (HSU) SA/NT as they fight an unfair pay freeze;
2. Recognises the essential work of RDNS workers, particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic; and
3. Acknowledges that the privatisation of Domiciliary Care has failed workers.
This motion observes that privatisation has failed the RDNS workers of our state. Indeed, I could add that it is also failing the community. I have in recent months stood proudly in solidarity with the RDNS workers and the Health Services Union as they have taken industrial action on several occasions over the past few months. These workers, who used to work for Domiciliary Care before the service was privatised, are fighting for a fair pay rise and for their leave entitlements not to be cut.
They were promised, when they did work for Domiciliary Care before the service was privatised, that they would never be in worse conditions and yet what they have been offered are worse conditions and a pay freeze. It is frankly insulting—particularly when these workers have been giving their all to keep South Australians safe and healthy over the past year and a half—that they are now being offered a pay freeze for their very precious work.
Freezing the pay of any workers, let alone frontline health workers during a pandemic, is not only unfair, it is not right. These workers have been let down by successive governments. First we saw the utter failure of privatisation that failed these workers and the community that relies upon them. These dedicated, hardworking people are now walking off the job in protest—as is their right—because their work is not being respected. We have seen in this place during these last many months of the pandemic members extolling the virtues of these most essential care workers. We are all happy to give them applause, to laud them in the parliament, but it seems we are looking away in this place as their pays are frozen.
This shift into the private sector was initiated in 2017 under the former government, when Domiciliary Care services that had been run by the then Department for Communities and Social Inclusion were moved to the RDNS, run by Silver Chain. Workers were promised that they would keep their conditions but that promise, of course, is in the process of being broken.
What we are seeing here is a private provider putting the bottom budget line of their company ahead of service, ahead of its workers and ahead of our community. By putting a bottom line of profit ahead of services, this government would indeed threaten people’s livelihoods and the quality of these services that they so essentially provide.
These are workers on the frontline of our pandemic. They look after some of the most vulnerable people in our society and these workers and their union—the HSU, the Health Services Union—have been clear that a strike and strike action is the last thing they want but they have run out of options. They are not being listened to, their pay has been frozen and their working conditions are under threat.
These workers are not asking for anything outrageous or anything they do not deserve, yet the RDNS has ignored their requests. I urge members in this place to support these workers in their struggle, to recognise the devastating impact privatisation has had on them and recognise the vital work of these workers, and call on the RDNS to rightly lift their pay and give them the support that they so mightily provide those in our community.
Adjourned debate on motion of Hon. I.K. Hunter.