‘Disgusting’ Conditions at Ageing Woodhouse Building Shows State Government’s Attitude towards Child Safety

After the heavy rainfall in early May, the Woodhouse Building at St Johns Park flooded – and not for the first time. The building is known to ‘leak’ during any rain heavier than a sprinkle.  

The impacts of previous flooding is evident throughout the building on any given day – from the sagging roof to the water stains in the roof and walls – however, it must be noted that some of the damage is not just from the rain but also from an aged and leaking hot water system which is making parts of the internal ceiling bulge. Appalling.

CPSU Assistant Secretary Thirza White (Follow on Twitter)

After the CPSU conducted a risk assessment on the building – workers were advised to continue to work from home until the Department had undertaken significant work to ensure the safety of the building. On hearing the news, workers were justifiably appalled to hear that they were expected to work on in unsafe conditions and that no attempt to find alternate accommodation would be sought. If you want to see how the Tasmanian Government values our Child Safety Service, look no further. Underfunded, understaffed; difficult, often harrowing work with little support. And expected to push on under unsafe and unsustainable conditions.  

The CPSU, Delegates and HSRs have been monitoring the progress of repairs and are looking forwards to inspecting the building and the environmental reports prior to the reopening of the building. These works included structural assessments, an occupational hygienist to inspect the state of the asbestos in the insulation of the building and any repairs which need to be made.  

Woodhouse is not the only example of outdated and unsafe workplaces in our public sector. It’s a pertinent reminder that your work group should have its own Health & Safety Representative. With their special powers under the Work Health and Safety Act 2012 to issue Provisional Improvement Notices, or cease work in unsafe conditions, they’re an important safeguard all of us should have access to.  

Get in touch at r.griffiths@tas.cpsu.com.au for information and support about negotiating with your PCBU to hold an HSR election for your work group.   

Meanwhile, CPSU members in Child Safety are taking action against chronic staff shortages in the North of the state.

Child Safety Services in the North West and North are in crisis. Multiple vacancies remain unfilled after months of being advertised. Low pay, as well as the reputation Child Safety Services has in the community for being a high stress, high workload workplace, with high incidences of vicarious trauma, is keeping people from applying for these roles.  

Burnout has become very real for us, many of us feeling a sense of hopelessness, fear, and anxiety. Many of us look for new jobs weekly; the loss of whom will only further burden those who stay. Stress from overwork and under-resourcing has created an environment which is a work health and safety hazard.”  

Workers in Child Safety have had enough of chronic understaffing and under-resourcing and are taking action to address it. The above is an extract of a collective letter that workers in Child Safety in Burnie wrote and sent to Secretary Michael Pervan on Friday the 27th of May. Workers have got organised in their union and are demanding these issues be rectified with better funding, better mental health support, and adequate resourcing. More than across 60 workers the North West and North in Child Safety support and have signed the letter!  

When workers in Child Safety are overworked, under-resourced, and paid less than their counterparts in in other jurisdictions or the private sector, communities, families, and children suffer. If we want to address these issues, as well as secure a decent pay rise during a cost-of-living crisis, it will be done together, or not at all. Talk to your co-workers about joining the union and get active today! 

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