Western Australian Industrial Relations Commission

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The State Wage Case is held pursuant to section 50A of the Industrial Relations Act, 1979. This obliges the Commission before 1 July in each year to make a General Order setting the minimum wage under the Minimum Conditions of Employment Act, 1993 for employees over the age of 21, for apprentices and for trainees. The General Order also adjusts rates of wages paid under State awards. More information can be found here.

The State Wage Case 2015 is listed for 2 June 2015 and an additional date to be advised after the Annual Wage Review decision of Fair Work Commission.

Submissions can be viewed here.

Proceedings will be webcast and can be viewed here.

The Australian Rail, Tram and Bus Industry Union was unsuccessful today in persuading the Commission to vary the Railway Employees’ Award and the Rail Car Drivers Award. The Union sought to vary the Awards to reflect the actual total percentage increases that were awarded to the State minimum wage since 2006.

It has been recognised by the Commission in Court Session in State Wage Cases that successive flat dollar increases to the State minimum wage over time can have the effect of compressing relativities between wage rates in awards. 

While the Commission accepted that since 2006 there has been a degree of compression of relativities within the Awards’ classifications, the effects were relatively small and inconsistent between classification levels.

The Commission held there was an insufficient nexus between cumulative State minimum wage increases, expressed in percentage terms, and the adjustment of the classification rates in the Awards.  The Commission appreciated that the Commission in Court Session has paid particular attention to awarding flat dollar increases to the minimum wage to favour the needs of the low paid.

In coming to its decision the Commission considered the importance of preserving the integrity of skill based career paths, the Awards’ rates as compared to cumulative CPI increases, the higher rates under the relevant industrial agreements, the modernisation of the Awards and potential flow on implications. On the evidence, it was clear that a substantial basis for the Union’s claim was to elevate the Awards’ base rates as a floor to bargain for an industrial agreement, which was not a proper basis to restore award relativities.

The Commission also discussed the meaning of a “public sector decision”.

The decision can be read here.

Red Express Pty Ltd, a business which owns and operates trucks, contracted to provide transport services to Toll Transport Pty Ltd.  In October 2009 the parties entered into a standard “Contract Carrier Agreement”, and in late 2010 an opportunity arose for Red Express to expand its work for Toll, by distributing products in the Katanning region of Western Australia.

Today, the Tribunal accepted there was a variation of the 2009 Agreement to accommodate the Katanning work at an agreed rate.  However, the Tribunal rejected Red Express’ claim that the 2009 Agreement was varied to include a term for minimum carton volumes and fuel levies. This was because there was no evidence that those two issues were finally agreed to by Toll. On the evidence, the parties did not proceed past the negotiation stage and there was no mutual assent to the alleged variation.

The Tribunal also considered the principles in relation to ‘no variation’ clauses, the subsequent conduct of the parties and certainty of terms.

The decision can be read here.

The Public Service Arbitrator has found that there is jurisdiction to amend a claim to deal with a decision by the employer to not offer a medical practitioner a new contract when the existing fixed term contract expired. 

 

The Australian Medical Association originally made an application to the Public Service Arbitrator to deal with a claim that the medical practitioner had been treated unfairly and unlawfully when the employer suspended the medical practitioner pending a decision on whether to undertake a formal disciplinary inquiry into the practitioner’s conduct. 

 

There was a period of time during which the conciliation process was undertaken and when the parties had private discussions.  During that time, the medical practitioner’s contract was due to expire.  The employer did not offer a new contract and the AMA said that this was due to the allegations about the employee’s conduct and the findings made about it. 

 

The AMA sought to amend the application to include the issue of the non‑renewal of the contract.  The employer objected, saying that the Public Service Arbitrator does not have jurisdiction to deal with the non‑renewal of the contract.  The employer also argued that there is a public sector standard, the Employment Standard, and therefore the Public Service Arbitrator is excluded from dealing with the matter. 

 

The Arbitrator found that whilst the Public Service Appeal Board may not be able to deal with a non‑renewal of a contract of employment because an appeal before it relates to a dismissal, in this case the matter relates not to a dismissal but to an industrial matter which is within the Arbitrator’s jurisdiction. 

 

The Arbitrator also found that the Employment Standard relates to a particular matter, that is the filling of a vacancy, and the issue before the Arbitrator is not about that matter but about the non‑renewal of the contract and therefore there is no limitation on the Arbitrator’s jurisdiction because of the Employment Standard. 

 

Therefore, the application could be amended and the expanded matter can be dealt with by conciliation and arbitration.

Click here to read the decision.

The WA Industrial Relations Commission today decided on salary increases for approximately 16,000 professional, administrative, clerical and technical staff (PACTS) employed in the WA public health system.  The increases of 3.75% from 1 July 2014 and 3.00% from 1 July 2015 apply as part of the latest enterprise agreement. 

 

The Health Services Union of Western Australia (HSU) and the Minister for Health reached agreement in 2014 for a new enterprise agreement for PACTS employed in the WA public health system.  However, they were not able to agree on the level of salary increases to apply.  The HSU sought increases of 4% from 1 July 2014 and 5% from 1 July 2015.  The Minister offered 2.75% and 2.5% respectively. 

 

The HSU claimed that higher increases than those offered were warranted partly because other groups within the WA public health system, in particular registered nurses and medical practitioners, had received more favourable increases.  They also claimed that there were efficiencies, improvements and increased complexity in the work of the PACTS, and they had contributed to the unprecedented level of change within the public health system, including new hospitals and funding changes. 

 

The Minister for Health submitted that the offer exceeded the Consumer Price Index for 2014/15 and matched the CPI forecast for 2015/16.  The Minister also said that comparisons with other occupational groups are not relevant because each set of negotiations is unique and takes account of different factors.  The Minister also argued that the State’s financial position made higher increases inappropriate and said that the pay increases ought to be in line with the State government wages policy, which is a necessary strategy for addressing the financial problems being encountered by the State. 

 

This is the first time the WAIRC has arbitrated payrises in government employee agreements since the Industrial Relations Act 1979 was amended to insert the requirement for the Commission to take account of the Government’s Public Sector Wages Policy Statement, the financial position and fiscal strategy of the State. 

 

The Commission noted that in deciding on a fair outcome, it is required to balance a range of considerations, including economic factors, the interests of the persons immediately concerned, where appropriate, the interests of the community as a whole, the Public Sector Wages Policy Statement, and the State’s financial position and strategy.  Each of those considerations is to be given its own weight. 

 

The Commission said that the application of the government wages policy from November 2013 needs to rest upon an equitable basis.  The HSU has shown that in its case, the policy does not rest on an equitable basis.  The PACTS are part of a health workforce that, in the cases of registered nurses and medical practitioners, received the higher wage or salary increases available under the 2009 government wages policy.  The salary increases under the 2014 Agreement are significantly lower.  It produces a situation where the PACTS are making a greater contribution to the recovery of the State’s financial position and fiscal strategy than the medical practitioners, registered nurses and support staff with whom they closely work.  That is inequitable.

 

The Commission also took into account that what became the 2014 Agreement commenced in close proximity to the end of the application of the 2011 wages policy, less than six weeks after the Public Sector Wages Policy Statement 2014 itself commenced. 

 

There was evidence of some dissatisfaction of HSU members at the size of the salary increases in the 2014 Agreement compared to nurses, medical practitioners and support staff and consequent loss of morale.  The Commission said this is undesirable in the context of the need for PACTS to work together to provide the standard of healthcare in the community. 

 

The HSU has also shown that there are changes in productivity and efficiency since the 2011 Agreement in the work performed, and in the 2014 Agreement that have occurred or are likely to occur.  Although the extent of productivity improvements and the value to be attached to them is controversial, there is a need to facilitate the efficient organisation and performance of work according to the needs of the Department of Health. 

 

The Commission recognises that this arbitration is occurring at a time when the State is experiencing the most challenging fiscal environment for many years and ongoing global economic uncertainty.  The state of the economy of WA, and the capacity of the Department of Health to pay, are part of the Commission’s considerations. 

 

The Commission also recognised that compliance with the government wages policy is crucial to achieving a return to budget surplus.  The Department of Health is funded for a wage increase consistent with government wages policy and would be expected to absorb the cost of any additional wage increase.  The Department’s budget is already under pressure. 

 

Although the government wages policy has been shown to have been exceeded by the government in the case of registered nurses and UV enrolled nurses, the background of wage agreements reached on the basis of government wages policy in 2014 for police, firefighters, general public servants, teachers, TAFE lecturers and various public transport authority groups is compelling.  It demonstrates a recognition of the significantly changed economic circumstances applying now than applied at the time the registered nurses and medical practitioners agreements were made. 

 

The Commission concluded that HSU has shown that it has not had a fair go and that fairness requires a salary increase in excess of projected CPI.  While it is clear that there is no historical link or nexus between the salary increases of PACTS and those of registered nurses and medical practitioners, it is unhelpful and not conducive of productive working relationships, for there to be a significant disparity over time. 

 

Each case will be considered on its merits, and arbitrated wage or salary increases greater than projected CPI should be the exception rather than the rule due to the State experiencing the most challenging fiscal environment for many years.

 

The Commission said that prescribing a salary increase greater than CPI in the 2014 Agreement is not taken lightly.  It will be in the interests of the persons immediately concerned but it may impact upon the Department of Health’s ability to provide health services to the community, although it is not inevitable that it will do so.  The salary increase to be ordered is not to be reached with mathematical precision, particularly in circumstances where there is no agreed valuation of any productivity and efficiency improvements.  

 

The salary increases provided to the PACTS in the public health system will have greater consistency with the wage and salary increases received by medical practitioners, nurses and support workers over the corresponding period but take account also of the economic circumstances facing the State and its fiscal strategy to deal with them. 

 

There will be a consequent, though marginal, cost increase to the Department of Health’s budget.  There will be a negligible effect on the State’s economy, and no evidence to suggest it will have any effect upon the level of employment or inflation.

The decision can be viewed here: 

Contact Us

Western Australian Industrial Relations Commission
17th Floor
111 St Georges Terrace
PERTH WA 6000

Phone : (08) 9420 4444
Facsimile : (08) 9420 4500
Free Call : 1800 624 263

Free Fax :1800 804 987

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