Western Australian Industrial Relations Commission

Correct interpretation of dispute resolution clause of industrial agreement declared

The Commission has declared that the correct interpretation of the dispute resolution provisions set out in the Department of Justice Prison Officers’ Industrial Agreement 2018 (Agreement) is that they are limited to disputes about the meaning and effect of the Agreement or the Minimum Conditions of Employment Act 1993 (WA).

The applicant, the Western Australian Prison Officers’ Union of Workers, and the respondent, the Minister for Corrective Services, are parties to the Agreement.

The applicant contended that the dispute resolution provisions of the Agreement, including the key provision of cl 176.2, should be constructed broadly to apply to all questions or disputes arising between the parties.

The respondent argued that the provisions are limited to those disputes about the meaning and effect of the Agreement or the Minimum Conditions of Employment Act 1993 (WA).

Senior Commission Kenner found that on a strict interpretative basis, even applying a generous approach, taking the language used in cl 176, he preferred the position adopted in the respondent’s submissions.

Kenner SC found, in its ordinary and natural meaning, the words in cl 176.2 that “Any question or dispute that arises between the parties regarding the meaning and effect of this Agreement… will be resolved” are narrow in scope and only seek to confine matters that are the subject of formal dispute resolution processes.

The Commission has issued a declaration to this effect.

The decision can be read here.

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