Western Australian Industrial Relations Commission

Appointments may be either on a permanent or fixed term basis

The Commission has dismissed an application made by The Civil Service Association of Western Australia Incorporated on behalf of its member. The applicant's member alleged that she was still a permanent public service officer. The applicant’s member was informed her permanent position was to be abolished in 2014, following which she was then seconded to the respondent who subsequently entered into a fixed-term contract of employment with her.

Commissioner Matthews considered that the applicant's member's claim must fail because clause 1 of the contract stated that her appointment with the respondent was done in accordance with section 64(1)(b) of the Public Sector Management Act 1994 (PSM Act). Under s 64(1) of the PSM Act, appointments may be made on either a permanent or fixed term basis and consequently a person cannot be appointed for both an indefinite period and a finite term. The applicant argued that she is a permanent public service officer because all of the parties to the contract intended for her to maintain that status, however, this argument could not be established because as a matter of law and without more Matthews C could not simply ignore the legal effect of clause 1.

Turning to the question of fairness, the applicant claimed that it would not be fair for its member to suffer an effect of the contract which no one involved in its formation intended. On the balance of probabilities, Matthews C found that it is not now unfair for the respondent to assert that the applicant's member was employed by it on the terms set out in the contract of employment. This is because the parties’ intentions were, for the most part, not relevant to the question of fairness and any of the intentions that were relevant were not enough to make the respondent now relying upon the contract unfair.

The decision can be read here.

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