06 March 2010

HSA delay - Volume Three - a complaint on behalf of assessors yet to be contracted

[This was emailed to ABSA, DEWHA, and others for whom I have email addresses. If you know a HSA, practising or not, or anyone else involved in the Green Loans Program, please pass this message on to them. - A.N.]

Subject: a complaint on behalf of assessors yet to be contracted

To whom it may concern,

Much has been written and spoken in recent weeks of the plight of HSAs, upon whom the recent changes to the Green Loans Program imposes a number of disadvantages.

However, I am writing on behalf of a subset of HSAs that I believe has been ignored so far, and a subset of which I am a member. I am writing about those HSAs who have received ABSA accreditation but who are not yet contracted to DEWHA.

On 19 February 2010, the Minister for the Environment announced, among other things, a cap of 5000 practising HSAs nationwide. According to an email that I had received from ABSA on 11 February, there were already 6979 accredited HSAs from 9522 total applications - a difference of 2543 outstanding applications. The very next day, I received my own HO number.

However, I have since spoken to HSA colleagues who lodged contract applications to DEWHA before I did, and they are still not contracted to DEWHA. This implies that there are more than 2543 accredited HSAs - about one quarter of the pool of trained HSAs - in the same position as I am, with ABSA accreditation but no contract with DEWHA.

Much has been made of the poor assessor sitting on the phone for days on end, unable to book new work; I know people in this position and sympathise completely. That said, for every practising HSA having this problem, there is another HSA without a contract at all: some 10000 people applied for contracts, but the government has capped the number of contracts at 5000. Fundamentally, these people are thousands of dollars out of pocket, but those without contracts have no possibility of work under the HSAS and no compensation for their investments. There has been no word about where we stand. One can't help but think that DEWHA has forgotten us.

Furthermore, I will not accept an explanation based upon Clause 3.2 of the Contract for the provision of Assessor Services by an individual (the same clause exists in the contract for assessors working for an organisation). The clause that there is "no guarantee of work" is a common excuse made to to those HSAs struggling to book new assessments over the phone, and one that was reiterated in the ABSA bulletin on 4 March 2010. For HSAs yet to be contracted to DEWHA, though, this clause is of no consequence whatsoever. This is a point of law.

On 12 February 2010, I received email notification of my ABSA accreditation and my HO number. The email from ABSA also stated that I would receive notification of acceptance of the contract within "approximately a week" and my HSA ID card within "approximately 12 working days". I sent my contract application to DEWHA on 16 February 2010. As of Friday, 5 March 2010 - the 13th working day since I lodged my contract application - I have received no notice of any kind that DEWHA intends to enter into a contract with me. Of course, the limit of 5000 contracted HSAs was announced in the meantime; this explains the silence on the issue but does not excuse it.

The upshot of this is that with no notice from DEWHA, the contract is not in effect, so Clause 3.2 does not apply to people in my situation. We know that the contract is open for acceptance or rejection, since the front page of the application form reads that the contract is binding "if the Department accepts and executes the Contract". It cannot be assumed, then, that the Department would automatically accept this contract application upon lodgement. All that can be assumed is that the HSA has accepted the terms but DEWHA has not.

What this means, in short, is as follows. Those people in my position have spent thousands of dollars in good faith to enter into a contract with DEWHA to become HSAs. If DEWHA is no longer intending to accept those contracts, then it has reneged on a promise, directly costing each contractor-to-be a substantial investment of time and money. Is not DEWHA's broken promise liable for that sunken investment?

We are still asking ourselves whether any of us will eventually be contracted or not, and at the very least, DEWHA does owe us an answer to this question. If the answer is "yes", then those people can join the struggle for assessment bookings and at least start getting their financial investment back; if it is "no", we will likely need to discuss compensation. Personally, I no longer expect my contract application to be accepted and am waiting for news of alternative remediation (perhaps even in the literal sense).

It is completely unfair for DEWHA to leave us out in the cold in this way, especially given the foreknowledge that it received from ABSA, as early as August 2009, about the impending surplus of trained HSAs seeking accreditation. I believe that, in the big picture, DEWHA does need to enforce the cap on HSAs, but it must be timely and forthright about the fate of those who are not to receive contracts, to whom and about whom it has said not a word since it announced changes to the GLP two weeks ago.

The day after DEWHA announced "significant changes" to the Green Loans Program, I had already made the point in a blog entry, reprinted shortly afterwards in On Line Opinion, that the fate of the HSAs without contracts is perhaps even more uncertain than that of the HSAs already practising. The point was made again this morning in the Sydney Morning Herald. DEWHA has been utterly silent on this matter, and even ABSA, having mentioned this issue in previous emails, conspicuously omitted it from their bulletin on 4 March 2010.

It has been a difficult time for all of us, but with the government so far refusing to take a seat at the negotiating table, this problem will never be solved. If practising HSAs already cannot expect to be treated fairly, those of us without contracts do not stand a chance of being compensated for any proportion of what we have lost - and we have all lost something. HSAs deserve prompt, decisive and fair answers from DEWHA.

Yours sincerely,

Aaron Nielsen

1 comment:

GLP Assessor said...

As an active FT assessor now being delegated to a PT career! Aaron's blogpost is a shocking insight into a group of assessors not being allowed to even start work! Due to the bungled mismanagement of the Green Loans Program!

This 'Nightmare On Garrett Street' continues to haunt both FT & PT assessors on a daily basis. There has been little support and viable solutions offered by DEWHA or ABSA!

Aaron and his fellow assessors have not been able to start work for months!

Get the true story of how the Rudd Government is dragging it's feet, making it impossible for assessors to make the change to a FT Green Career viable.

Visit GLPAssessor on Blogger, The Assessor's Story.