Ballarat Health Services mental health workers stopped work for two hours on Friday over stalled enterprise bargaining agreement negotiations.
Health and Community Services Union Ballarat representative Michael Stone said the workers were concerned about increasing service demand, staff shortages, mounting pressure from substance affected patients and workplace violence.
Mr Stone said BHS workers were also still recovering from a systemic workplace bullying culture which he said had resulted in “career roadkill” for many staff, a toxic working environment, mass staffing shortages and a huge employee turnover.
“Mental health doesn’t seem to get the support it needs,” Mr Stone said. “It needs have numbers increased, not decreased.”
He said the effects of substance affected patients were also becoming far worse, particularly for staff working at night when the ratio of staff to clients was particularly low.
“They are often faced with severe instances of punching, kicking, swearing and spitting and help can be a long way away.
“These clinicians are highly professional but not to the extent where this sort of stuff is ignored as an occupational health and safety issue.”
However, Mr Stone said BHS was a “transformed organisation” since the workplace bullying issue was exposed, though there were still concerns the draft review report into the allegations has yet to be released.
“Staff now feel free to make complaints about bullying and that they won’t be exposed for making that complaint.”
Mr Stone said BHS needed to acknowledge the damage done but added the current mental health unit leadership was doing an excellent job.
He said the EBA expired in March and they had been negotiating since late last year for a five per cent salary increase and parity with New South Wales.
HACSU assistant state secretary Paul Healey said the state government must invest in the mental health area or “pay a heavier price down the track with people becoming marginalised, creating social dislocation.”
BHS said its key focus during the stop work was ensuring minimal impact on patients.
Mental health doesn't seem to get the support it needs.- Michael Stone, HACSU
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