Union News: November

Posted on November 7, 2017

Welcome to November and this month's edition of Union News!

Read on for news from around our union!

Family and Domestic Violence Leave Clause Win

Australia has one of the highest rates of domestic and family violence in the western world. We know that financial stability and the ability to take leave without losing one's employment are crucial to enable persons affected by family and domestic violence to leave violent relationships, and to recover from violence.

That's why the ACTU on behalf of unions and workers across Australia successfully fought to ensure all Modern Awards contain a provision giving employees a right to access domestic and family violence leave and to use their personal/carers leave for family and domestic violence purposes.

The Fair Work Commission has agreed with the ACTU submissions around the need for such a right and is developing a model clause for inclusion in Awards. This is the first time in the world national domestic violence leave has been enshrined in law.

At this stage the Commission has not agreed that such leave should be paid, which is disappointing, but it has left the door open for this in the future and the ACTU and unions will continue to fight for this. Ensuring employees impacted by domestic and violence can take leave to escape domestic violence and without prejudicing their employment is nevertheless a significant improvement.

Fair Work is currently hearing submissions regarding the wording of a model clause and we will keep you updated.

Draft Public Service Directives

The Public Service Commission (PSC) has recently sent to relevant unions the following draft Directives for comment.

Managing Employee Health, Safety and Wellbeing – Independent Medical Examinations (IME)

You might recall from previous communications that the way directed medical assessments have been conducted across the public sector has been of significant concern. The outcomes of these assessments can have a significant and detrimental impact on members' employment and we have advocated strongly that there needs to be a directive to set minimum standards of effective governance to protect our members' rights in these processes rather than the current, non-binding, guideline issued by the PSC.

In order to be able to direct employees to submit to a medical examination under section 175 of the Public Service Act 2008, the employer must be satisfied that the elements under s174 have been met. We have often had to challenge employers on occasions where these elements have not been demonstrated.

Any medical examination can be stressful; however, when members are attending without their consent, that stress is magnified considerably. Given that the employer sometimes send their chosen doctor background material containing disputed - or worse, prohibited - information it is vital members seek assistance from the union office.

The draft Directive proposes an option to appeal the direction if section 174 has not been satisfied. This will likely create a change to how these matters are conducted by employers and lead to better due diligence as the draft also suggests steps to take prior to exercising their authority to direct an examination.

In any case, your union industrial staff will continue to urge you to contact them to discuss as soon as possible where your employer is speaking about seeking medical advice or examinations.

Employee conduct and performance management

One of the new appeals under section 194 of the Act, successfully achieved though union activity, is where there is a formal recorded review of performance, and eligible members are aggrieved with that recorded decision.

The draft creates a minimum standard for the conduct of performance management processes, including poor performance. It proposes a framework for reasonable management action and allows for an appeal where action is not considered reasonable.

There is detail regarding the Code of Conduct, setting expectations, ensuring regular feedback, and ensuring support in the process.

It is important to contact your union industrial staff where there are concerns raised regarding your performance.

Public Service Temporary Employees 

Due to action by Together members, Queensland government departments are finally being required to address temporary employment within their ranks.

A government directive issued on 30 June 2017 meant that many long-term temporary public sector workers would be eligible to be made permanent in their jobs. The Together office has been supporting and representing members throughout the process.

As of the end of October more than 400 members have been supported by the union office in lodging applications to be converted to permanency. Many of those members have been converted to permanency on the basis of that application.

Of course, not all departments have been so forthcoming and of the 40 cases so far that have been taken on appeal to the Queensland Industrial Relations Commission, the vast majority (85%) have been either converted to permanency or had the decision referred back to the decision maker to reconsider.

Annual Financial Statements

 The annual statements of both the federal branch and the state union have been completed and are available online. 

The vast majority of Together's financial activities are undertaken as the federal branch of the ASU. You can read those statements here:

Together also maintains the status of a union under the Queensland Industrial Relations Act. Those audited statements are available here:

If you haven't already, you can access your tax statement on your Together mypage using your email address or membership number here. If you haven't signed in before or have forgotten the password you set up last year, click the "forgot password" link and follow the prompts.

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