Marriage equality and the ASU

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The ASU is a proud supporter of marriage equality. When Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull announced that Australia will participate in a postal plebiscite to gauge public opinion on the same-sex marriage debate the ASU  proudly stood up to show our unwavering support for marriage equality.

We have spent the past month making  t-shirts, attending actions, distributing posters and other campaign material  and urging members and others to vote yes in support of a major social change in Australian society. The ASU also put a call out to members and staff to come along and volunteer in phone banking. Members and staff showed up and committed their time to calling other ASU members and urging them to return their yes vote. The ASU phone banking is proving to be a huge success and we are really grateful to everyone who come along gave their time. If you want to get involved and support the ASU in our joint campaign for marriage equality please contact Ed Yap or Kristy Lee Tyrrell.

Injured at work? Know your rights.

 

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If you are injured at work it is important to know your rights.

  1. If you suspect you have been injured (physically or psychologically) at work it is important that the event is recorded in the Incident Report Book. Under the OHS Act 2004 (VIC) your employer is legally obliged to make the Incident Report Book accessible to all employees.
  2. It is important that injured employees seek immediate assistance from their own treating medical practitioner (doctor). The employer may ask you to consult with their ‘own doctor’, however at this stage of the process it is the employees’ right to choose. The ASU strongly recommends that injured workers consult with their own doctor. After all no one knows you better than your own family doctor. Ensure you also contact the ASU 1300 855 570 to externally log the incident.
  3. The next step is to file a WorkCover claim with the aid of your doctor. An injured worker has the ability to make a claim within 30 days of becoming aware of the injury. It is illegal for an employer to discriminate, injure or terminate an employee for exercising their right to make a WorkCover claim.

If your WorkCover claim is rejected by the employer’s insurer, your ASU membership assures you assistance through Union Assist who provide expert advisors in any process of conciliation.

Once a WorkCover Claim has been accepted, the employer must take all reasonable steps to provide a Return To Work Plan when the injured employee has some capacity to work. The ASU will help you in the RTW process in conjunction with your doctor to ensure that your return follows a fair and just process.

It is of the utmost of importance that any employee injured at work makes a WorkCover Claim for the following reasons:

  • It establishes a legal record of injury in the workplace. This is important for legal reasons, particularly if the injured worker suffers loss of income due to the inability to work, or medical complications down the track.
  • Making a WorkCover Claim also alerts the Victorian Worksafe Authority that there may be OHS concerns on site, particularly if there are a number of claims. This allows preventative measures to be put in place by WorkSafe the employer and local Health & Safety Representatives, reducing possible injuries in the future. It also ensures that any injured employee will not be out of pocket for medical expenses, treatment and rehabilitation. The employer cannot evade their responsibility and liability for an injured worker.

So if you are injured at work, make a WorkCover Claim. This will ensure that you are protected and are able to focus on recovery, as opposed to being left out in the cold. For absolute clarity, please find the Maurice Blackburn guide to making a Workcover claim in the State of Victoria.

 

The hurdles of industrial action

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We all know that ASU members have the right to take protected industrial action.  Unfortunately, exercising that right is not always straightforward.  There are a number of administrative and legal hurdles that must be cleared first, and by world standards, the restrictions on taking industrial action in Australia are quite onerous.  

In Australia, right to take protected industrial action is confined to action in support of claims for a proposed enterprise agreement.   The right is further restricted by the requirement to first have the action approved by a ballot of all members that would be covered by the proposed enterprise agreement.  In itself that is not too problematic for a union, because any decisions we make to take industrial action are made collectively anyway.  The problem is the process is not straightforward.

To conduct a ballot to approve taking industrial action, we must first seek an order from the Fair Work Commission.  The content of the actual ballot must set out any items of industrial action that we may wish to take, and FWC must approve those items.  If the employer does not oppose our ballot, FWC usually issues the order within a few days.  If the employer does oppose the ballot the matter can get tied up in proceedings for some time.  

If FWC makes an order approving our ballot, the Australian Electoral Commission then runs the ballot process.  The ballot process itself usually takes about three weeks. 

Once the ballot has been voted up, we are must notify the employer of the action we’ll be taking.  The notice period required is usually three clear working days, but can be as long as seven clear working days. 

If any of these steps are not taken, then any industrial action will not be protected.  So simply exercising your right to take protected industrial action can be quite convoluted.

Mornington Peninsula Appeal

In a recent example, after consultation with the relevant membership group, the ASU sought three orders from the FWC for ballots of members at Mornington Peninsula Shire Council to approve the taking of protected industrial action.  Normally we would only seek a single order, but the ASU and Council were bargaining for three separate agreements, so an order was required with respect to each one.  

The Council opposed our applications, arguing that a number of the items of action sought were not industrial action as defined by the Fair Work Act 2009.  The three matters were heard jointly by Commissioner Bissett.   

The main issue in the matter was whether a stoppage for the purpose of attaching campaign material to your clothing or for the purpose of typing an email message about a bargaining campaign, was capable of being industrial action. 

The wording of our items was relevantly identical to wording previously approved by the same Commissioner.  Unsurprisingly the Commissioner again found our wording to be acceptable (with one exception on the basis that the circumstances in this case were different to the previous time she considered the same item).

The Council then filed an appeal against the Commissioner’s decision.   Appeal matters in FWC are determined by a ‘Full Bench’, which is a panel of FWC members (usually three) rather than a single FWC member.  Decisions made by a Full Bench set a precedent for subsequent matters, which makes the outcome of Full Bench matters important.

The Council then filed an appeal against the Commissioner’s decision.   Appeal matters in FWC are determined by a ‘Full Bench’, which is a panel of FWC members (usually three) rather than a single FWC member.  Decisions made by a Full Bench set a precedent for subsequent matters, which makes the outcome of Full Bench matters important.

The meaning of industrial action has been subject of a series of decisions by FWC and the Courts.  The understanding of what is included within the definition has been refined with each decision.  The main issue in this case was whether a stoppage for the purpose of attaching campaign material to your clothing was capable of being industrial action. Council argued that the Commissioner misapplied the Fair Work Act’s definition of industrial action.

The FWC Full Bench heard the matter and issued its decision a few days later.  The Full Bench found that some of our previously approved items should not have been approved.  That is disappointing, but critically the Full Bench agreed with us that a stoppage for the purpose of attaching campaign material to your clothing or typing an email message about a bargaining campaign is industrial action (Note: It is the stoppage itself in such an instance that is protected).  The Full Bench decision also included commentary that will assist the ASU in designing items that will comply with the current interpretations of what is industrial action.

While the legal processes were playing out the three proposed agreements got voted up, so no industrial action will actually take place.  It is noteworthy that even if Council had not filed an appeal the ballots would not have been completed in time for us to initiate industrial action anyway.

Acceptable use of social media

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In light of recent Australian Public Service Commission guide regarding social it’s timely to be reminded of some tips for protecting yourself from have any issues in your employment because of your social media activity.

As a general principle if you do something that is likely to damage your relationship with your employer, or damage your employer’s interest, you could be disciplined, including dismissal, even if the conduct was outside of working hours. This includes social media activity.

Tips:

  • Be aware of your employer’s social media policy (if they have one)
  • Even if you have strict privacy settings on your social media, it is safest to assume everything you do or say on social media is public and could therefore become known to your employer
  • Don’t identify your employer in posts on social media (even this won’t protect you if people can still make the connection to your employer)
  • It’s not just about what you say on social media yourself. What you ‘like’, share or re-post could also come under scrutiny
  • Be selective about who you ‘friend’ on social media
  • Don’t air workplace grievances on social media. What you say in a moment of anger or frustration could come back to haunt you. There are processes for dealing with workplace issues, use those instead.
  • Try to avoid anything that could damage your employer’s interests, or could be incompatible with your duties as an employee, which could include things that are not directly related to your employer

And if you're looking for us online you can find us here:

How to be a super woman

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You may have heard reports that Australian women are retiring with only half the average super balance of men. The ASU’s recently released Not so super, for women report provides policy recommendations to help close this super gender gap, but while we wait for policies to catch up, there are steps women (and in fact, anyone) can take to improve their retirement outcome.

We spoke to ASU and Vision Super member, Melinda to hear how she is taking control of her financial future with a few simple steps.

Once upon a time, Melinda was overwhelmed with super, but instead of ignoring the subject, she took it upon herself to learn one thing about super each year. The first year she taught herself about salary sacrifice, the second year she learned about beneficiaries, and the next year, she learned about insurance through super.

“I started taking super seriously around ten years ago when my first child started school and I wasn’t paying quite as much in childcare costs,” said Melinda.

“At that point, I started salary sacrificing 3% of my salary in to super, which I then increased to 6% when my second child went to school.”

Melinda now contributes 10% of her salary to her super through salary sacrifice and is on track to retire around age 60.

Aware that she is in a better position than many of her female peers, Melinda strongly encourages women to educate themselves on super, even though it’s sometimes challenging.

“Legislative changes mean the goal posts around super are constantly changing – and it’s certainly very different to what it was when I first started educating myself ten years ago,

“I would still strongly recommend that women learn about salary sacrifice, and even better - learn about the benefits of salary sacrificing in line with an EBA.”

Melinda increased her salary sacrifice amount in line with her workplace’s enterprise bargaining agreement (EBA) which was a 3% salary increase.

This meant that Melinda didn’t notice the difference in her take home pay – as she was salary sacrificing the increase which was money she didn’t originally have.

“I put what I can in my super because it’s a great investment tool for people who want to leave the investment decisions to the experts,

“I still have control of the risk I take, for example, right now I am invested in one of Vision Super’s balanced options - but I don’t have to actively invest my own money.”

“I am proud of myself and I feel empowered with the knowledge I have now, I want to be able to retire on my terms.”

The team at Vision Super are dedicated to helping you feel in control of your financial future and are always here to help.

If you’d like help to start saving like Melinda, contact Vision Super’s Business Development Manager, Paul Filia on 0417 014 945 or email pfilia@visionsuper.com.au

You can also find helpful fact sheets and articles on the Vision Super website.

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