Representing public sector dentists in the EBA negotiations
The Australian Dental Association Victorian Branch (ADAVB) advocates for equitable employment conditions for public sector dentists. We fund expert industrial advice and representation for members in enterprise bargaining negotiations.
The ADAVB actively advocates in many ways to improve public oral health, including increasing government funding to the public dental sector to:
- increase the capacity for service delivery and reduce waiting times to access public dental care
- update public dental infrastructure
- provide an equitably employed and sustainable public sector workforce.
Negotiation update November 2022
On 21 October 2022, the ADAVB with Professionals Australia signed off on an 'interim administrative' arrangement with the Victorian Department of Health for hospital employed dentists and dental specialists covered by:
· Victorian Public Health Sector (General Dentists’) Multi-Employer Agreement 2018
· Victorian Public Health Sector (General Dentists’) Multi-Employer Agreement 2018 (No 2)
· Specialists Dentists and Specialist Dentists in Training Dental Health Services Victoria Enterprise Agreement 2018-2022.
The interim arrangement is NOT the same as the 12-month 2% rollover option (also referred to as the 'secondary pathway' of the Government’s current Wage Policy) but does include:
1. a 2% wage increase for this financial year (2022/23) back paid to 1 July 2022
2. $2000 (pro rata based on time fraction) Professional Support Allowance and
3. a single $5000 'scholarship payment' for specialist dentists in training to be paid on the first full pay period on or after 1 March 2023.
The interim arrangement is in recognition that we have been unable to reach agreement regarding our other claims prior to the Government going into care-taker mode (early November) and is contingent upon us agreeing to withdraw our applications to take protected industrial action and revoke all outstanding protected action ballots.
We are currently working with the Victorian Hospitals Industrial Association to ensure that we can have this arrangement mirrored for dentists employed in stand-alone community dental agencies covered by the other public sector dental enterprise agreements.
We are disappointed that the Government has refused to acknowledge the important work that public sector dentists and dental specialists undertake by utilising this hard-line approach to bargaining, but we will continue to negotiate in the new year and remain hopeful of achieving a more reasonable outcome under a new wages policy.
Members can view a recording of the webinar held on 27 October (update #9) on our website here, along with the other EBA update webinar recordings.
We will keep you updated regarding further developments.
Please ensure you read email correspondence from ADAVB which may come from email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org, watch this page for updates, webinar information and frequently asked questions, and join our closed Facebook group www.facebook.com/groups/adavbpublicdentists.
What is an EBA?
EBA stands for Enterprise Bargaining Agreement. Enterprise bargaining is an Australian term for a form of collective bargaining, in which wages and working conditions are negotiated between employees (and/or their representatives, like a trade union or professional association) and employer organisations (and/or their representatives).
Once established, EBAs are legally binding for employers and employees that are covered by the agreement.
Unlike “awards”, which provide similar standards for all workers in the entire industry covered by a specific award, the EBAs can apply only to employees of one-singular employer, or groups of employers that might all agree to the terms of the EBAs.
Enterprise agreements can vary in the duration they apply for. In public sector dentistry in Victoria our EBAs generally apply for four-years. Most recently that was from 1 July 2018 to 30 June 2022. Even though the most recent set of agreements have technically (or “nominally”) expired, the conditions and entitlements of the 2018-2022 agreements will continue to apply until such time that a new agreement is finalised.
Enterprise Agreement negotiations are unique in Australia in that while bargaining, a group of employees can, without legal penalties, undertake industrial action in pursuit of their claims. An application to take protected industrial action needs to be approved by the Fair Work Commission before it can be lawfully undertaken.
How is an EBA made?
The Fair Work Act 2009 provides a simple, flexible, and fair framework that assists employers and employees to bargain in good faith to make an enterprise agreement. Employers, employees, and their bargaining representatives are involved in the process of bargaining for a proposed enterprise agreement.
An employer must notify their employees of their right to be represented by a bargaining representative no later than 14 days after the official start of bargaining. The Notice of Employee Representational Rights (NERR) should be given to each current employee who is covered by the agreement.
Each party (or side of the bargaining table) puts forward a Log of Claims which is like a summary wish list of what they would like the next round of agreements to say. Together the parties go through the claims and the agreements and in instances where both parties agree to the proposed changes we move on to the next claim or clause. In circumstances where there is no agreement, parties seek to find a compromise.
Some changes are considered cost items (as in, it will cost the organisation, or the funder) to make the change. After the bargaining parties reach an agreement in principle the Government calculates the total cost of implementing the proposed agreement at public sector hospitals and if what’s proposed complies with the Government’s policies (such as the current wage policy) they will approve the costs and work can start to finalise the new agreements.
If agreement cannot be reached, employees are entitled to apply to take protected industrial action.
The Fair Work Commission (FWC) is Australia’s national workplace relations tribunal, and the FWC regulates this process.
How do I know if I’m covered by an EBA or which one I’m covered by?
The finalised EBAs are publicly available documents that make reference within the document itself regarding who and where they apply to. In Victoria there are eight different agreements that apply to 41 organisations that provide public dental services. The Fair Work Commission (FWC) website has copies of all the agreements: Find an enterprise agreement | Fair Work Commission (fwc.gov.au)
If you have trouble using the search function on the website, you could also ask a member of the Human Resources or People and Culture team of your organisation to provide you with the agreement that applies to you.
How is ADAVB involved in the EBA?
ADAVB Council continues to support our public sector members and colleagues by ensuring that ADAVB is funded and resourced in negotiations and representing publicly employed dentists during this round (2022-2026) and the last round (2018-2022) of bargaining.
The ADAVB bargaining teams consists of ADAVB CEO Matt Hopcraft, ADAVB Policy & Research Manager Katy Theodore and Professionals Australia Victorian Director Scott Crawford. Professionals Australia has been contracted again to provide Industrial Relations expertise and advice. They are a national union and professional association that represents the interests of many professions with a strong presence in the health sector, including representing medical scientists and researchers, biomedical engineers, translators and interpreters and management professionals at Ambulance Victoria.
The ADAVB Public Dentistry Committee acts as the main reference group for decisions regarding strategy and approach to bargaining.
Do I have to be involved?
To be abundantly clear, if you are employed as a dentist at an organisation covered by an EBA – you are involved (whether you want to be active in your involvement or not). ADAVB relies on your involvement i.e., taking actions recommended by the ADAVB that are intended to benefit you directly, as well as your colleagues, and the future of public sector dentistry so that it can continue to be a viable career choice for dentists.
There is a wide spectrum of involvement, and again – to be explicitly clear – your inaction also has consequences (that are not aligned with our efforts or objectives).
The minimum ask is that you:
- appoint ADAVB as your Bargaining Representative, and
- vote as recommended by ADAVB in all EBA related ballots.
By representing the largest possible proportion of public sector dentists (at any given workplace, and across the state) the bargaining power is stronger – making it more likely to get proposed changes included in the new agreements. This is why ADAVB is accepting nominations from non-members, because it benefits ADAVB members by maximising bargaining power.
In addition the minimum recommended involvement listed above (points a and b), you also have the opportunity to read and respond to EBA related correspondence (which comes in many formats such as direct email messages from ADAVB, attend EBA update webinars, and/or contact members of the Public Dentistry Committee to make your opinions and preferences known.
Who do I ask if I have questions about my entitlements?
In the first instance, you should speak to the Human Resources or People and Culture team/department/representative at the organisation where you are employed for questions regarding your entitlements under the EBA.
In the second instance, if you have questions or concerns about the advice you receive from your employer, members are invited to contact the ADA HR Advisory Service provided by HR Assured. E: email@example.com or call 1300 232 462.
In the third instance members are invited to contact ADAVB at firstname.lastname@example.org with questions, concerns, or feedback.
The last EBA saw a 19% pay increase over 4 years - will we achieve the same this time?
This round we are bargaining in a very different political and financial environment compared the last round, particularly as a consquence of managing the COVID-19 pandemic. The Victorian Public Sector Wages Policy caps improvements in wages and entitlements to a maximum of 2% per annum for the life of the agreement.
None of the other major health sector unions have managed to negotiate an agreement with entitlements above this wages policy. Nonetheless, we continue to negotiate with a view to get the best possible outcome for members, including maximising entitlements that have a tangible financial impact, such as an extra week of annual leave, and extra allowances, in addition to the limited wage increases.
EBA update webinars
ADAVB have been holding regular information sessions online since September 2021. Recordings of the EBA update webinars are published on the ADAVB website and available for members to review at their convenience. The sessions have provided the opportunity for public sector dentists and specialists to ask questions and better understand how they can be involved.
View previous information session recordings here.
Upcoming sessions: will be displayed below as they become available.