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Industrial Magistrate dismisses school teacher’s claim, finding no error in their classification or pay

The Industrial Magistrate has dismissed a teacher’s claim for alleged breaches of his Agreement and contraventions of the Fair Work Act 2009, finding that he was classified and paid correctly in his employment.

Background

The claimant was a teacher employed by the first respondent school, at which the second respondent was the Principal. The claimant alleged breaches of his Agreement and contraventions of the Fair Work Act 2009, and sought unpaid salary, superannuation, interest, and penalties.

Contentions

The claimant contended that he was paid incorrectly and that on commencement his salary should have been assessed at Step 11 and not Step 7. The claimant contended he had 6.85 years of relevant experience meant he should be classified as a ‘Four Years Trained Teacher’ or ‘Five Years Trained Teacher’ under the Agreement, and that the first respondent was required to progress him to the next step on a certain date, then every 12 months.. The claimant contended that the Agreement should be read with the Award, the national teaching standards and registration framework set by the Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership (AITSL Framework).

The respondents contended that the AITSL Framework and Award did not affect the Agreement’s interpretation, and that both respondents complied with starting salary obligations under the Agreement. The respondents contended that the claimant was above the Agreement, and that the claimant’s salary was determined fairly and reasonably, based upon information available at the time. The respondents contended that they increased the claimant’s wage when required, pursuant to the Agreement, and that cl 3.4 expressly excluded the application of any other industrial instrument including the Award that might otherwise apply.

Findings

The Industrial Magistrate found that the claimant had not completed the relevant education and training requirements to be classified as a four or five years trained teacher. The Industrial Magistrate found that this was supported by the National Office of Overseas Skills Recognition’s assessment of the claimant’s overseas qualifications. The Industrial Magistrate found that the Teacher Registration Board of Western Australia had not determined the claimant had the qualifications required. The Industrial Magistrate found that the claimant was a ‘Not otherwise classified’ teacher, meaning the claimant was to commence on Step 1, progressing a step each year of full-time work.

The Industrial Magistrate found that while the second respondent was incorrect in his calculation of the claimant’s experience by 0.81 years, that no salary adjustment was required as this would not have qualified the claimant to receive any more than a Step 3 salary. The Industrial Magistrate found that the claimant was paid more than required under the Agreement; that no liability arose with respect to underpayment; and that it was unnecessary to make an assessment regarding the second respondent’s liability. The Industrial Magistrate dismissed the claim.

The decision can be read here.

Work Health and Safety Tribunal affirms WorkSafe decision not to grant a demolition license

The Work Health and Safety Tribunal has affirmed a decision not to grant a demolition license after determining that it could not be satisfied that the applicant could undertake the work in a safe and proper manner.

Background

The applicant undertook demolition work. The respondent, the WorkSafe Western Australia Commissioner, decided not to reissue a class 2 demolition license to the applicant due to insufficient class 2 demolition work experience. The applicant applied to the Tribunal to quash the respondent’s decision not to reissue.

Contentions

The applicant contended that the Tribunal ought to grant a license as he was able to undertake class 2 work in a safe and proper manner as shown by his work and WorkSafe audits, and that the Tribunal should consider non class 2 experience. The applicant contended that the Tribunal should not exclude class 2 jobs that contravened the Occupational Safety and Health Regulations 1996 (WA) (‘OSH Regulations’) as the adverse consequences of denying a license was disproportionate to the breach.

The respondent contended that the requirement to be able to undertake demolition work in a ‘safe and proper manner’ should be understood to mean lawfully and in accordance with the OSH Regulations. The respondent contended that the applicant recurrently carried out unlawful work, and that breaches of the Occupational Safety and Health Act 1984 (WA) (‘OSH Act’) and the OSH Regulations were relevant.

Findings

The Tribunal noted that that it must have regard to s 26(1) of the Industrial Relations Act 1979 (WA) (‘IR Act), and when reviewing an OSH Act matter referred to it, must act according to equity, good conscience and the substantial merits of the case without regard to technicalities or legal form. The Tribunal noted it was not bound by the rules of evidence, may inform itself as it thinks just, and must consider the interests of the persons immediately concerned whether directly affected or not and, where appropriate, the interests of the community as a whole. The Tribunal noted further that it must apply the legal provisions setting out the conditions a person must satisfy to be licensed to undertake a task or activity regulated for reasons of safety.

The Tribunal found that the applicant was notified, and ought to have taken note, that undertaking class 2 work following his license expiry breached the OSH Regulations, and that the applicant agreed that asbestos removal constituted demolition work or at least was a part of it. The Tribunal found that the applicant had contravened his license by engaging others who were not trained in safe demolition by a Registered Training Organisation. The Tribunal found it could not assess non class 2 work experience as the evidence given was general and not supported by specific jobs, referees, or experts.

The Tribunal found it was not satisfied that the applicant could undertake class 2 work in a safe and proper manner, and that the applicant’s individual interest in maintaining a license must be subordinate to the public interest in ensuring public safety. The Tribunal affirmed WorkSafe’s decision.

The decision can be read here.

Commission dismisses application to tender new documents in prison officer’s appeal against removal action

The Commission has dismissed a Senior Prison Officer’s application to tender new documents in a loss of confidence appeal, finding that the evidence was not new, and that it was not in the interests of justice to grant leave to be tendered.

Background

The appellant, a Senior Prison Officer, appealed his removal from his position under the loss of confidence provisions in Part X of the Prisons Act 1981 (WA) (Prisons Act). Prior to the substantive appeal being heard, the appellant lodged an interlocutory application seeking to rely on two documents not originally filed.

Contentions

The appellant contended that first document, a transcript, was not available to him at the time of filing as it was ‘restricted information’ under the Corruption, Crime and Misconduct Act 2003 (WA). In the alternative, if the transcript was properly characterised as ‘new evidence’ as used in the Prisons Act then the appellant sought leave to tender it under s 108 of the Prisons Act. The appellant contended the second document, an Incident Report, was new evidence for the purposes of Part X of the Prisons Act, and it was in the interests of justice to grant leave to tender it.

The respondent opposed orders enabling the documents to be before the Commission and contended the transcript was ‘new evidence,’ and that neither document met the test in s 108 of the Prisons Act for the tender of ‘new evidence’, because neither document was relevant to any issue in the appeal.

Findings

The Commission found that determining whether to allow the transcript involved construction of the Prisons Act regarding the meaning of ‘examined and taken into account’ in part (a) of the definition of ‘new evidence.’ The Commission found that ‘taken into account…in making the removal decision’ meant considered as a step in the process that led to the removal action. The Commission found that documents and materials that were both examined by the respondent and considered by him as a step in the process leading to the removal action, would be within the exclusion in subpar (a) of the definition of ‘new evidence’ and therefore be outside the scope of what is ‘new evidence’

The Commission found that the transcript was not new evidence as it had been examined by the respondent and was considered by him in the process leading to the removal action, including in his assessment of the grounds of the Notice of Loss of Confidence, the Investigation Report, and the appellant’s submissions. The Commission found that it should not exercise its discretion to extend the time for filing of the transcript as the transcript was not relevant to the issues in the appeal to justify doing so.

The Commission found that it could be inferred that the Incident Report would have been made available to the appellant had he sought it from the respondent. The Commission found that this weighed against the grant of leave. The Commission found that the appellant’s grounds of appeal were not advanced by the Incident Report and that it was not in the interests of justice to grant leave to tender the Incident Report.

The Commission dismissed the application.

The decision can be read here.

Commission dismisses government officer’s unfair dismissal application for want of jurisdiction

The Commission has dismissed a laboratory technician’s unfair dismissal application for want of jurisdiction, finding that she was a government officer, and that the claim instead fell within the jurisdiction of the Public Service Appeal Board.

Background

The applicant was a Laboratory Technician and filed an unfair dismissal application claiming she was unfairly dismissed from her position. The respondent was the Department of Education WA.

Contentions

The applicant contended she was unfairly dismissed, and her application should be heard by the Commission pursuant her industrial award. The applicant contended that the Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth) and s 109 of the Constitution concerning inconsistency between State and federal laws required her Award and Agreement to be used to determine whether the Commission had jurisdiction.

The respondent sought to have the application dismissed and contended that as the applicant was a government officer her application should be made to the Public Service Appeal Board.

Findings

The Commission noted it was not at dispute that the respondent employed the applicant, and it was a State Government Department and a public authority under the Industrial Relations Act 1979 (WA). The Commission found that the issue was whether the applicant was employed ‘on the salaried staff’ of the respondent, as this would mean she would be considered a government officer and the Public Service Appeal Board would have exclusive jurisdiction to deal with the application.

The Commission found the respondent was a ‘State Government Department’ and not a constitutional corporation, the Commonwealth, or a Commonwealth authority, meaning the employment relationship was not covered by the national system. The Commission found that this meant there was no inconsistency between a law of the State and a law of the Commonwealth to be considered. The Commission found that the applicant would be a government officer if they were paid a salary and worked in the ‘administrative, technical and professional ranks’ of the public sector.

The Commission found that the applicant was paid a salary as they were paid a fixed fortnightly amount under their Agreement and Award, and the applicant did not refute this. The Commission found that it did not need to determine the nature of specific duties of the applicant, as the applicant did not refute that she performed clerical and administrative or technical duties, and the parties agreed the Award applied, including a scope clause providing she was ‘employed… in an administrative, clerical or general capacity.’ The Commission found that the applicant was an employee generally employed in the ‘administrative, technical and professional ranks’ of the public sector.

The Commission found that as the applicant satisfied both tests, they were employed ‘on the salaried staff’ and were a government officer. The Commission found it did not have jurisdiction as the applicant was a government officer and dismissed the application. The Commission noted that the respondent was incorrectly identified, but that it was unnecessary to make any findings as to whether the application should be dismissed on this basis.

The decision can be read here.

Commission dismisses unfair dismissal application due to applicant’s improper conduct

The Commission has dismissed an unfair dismissal application on the basis that the applicant’s behaviour in the course of proceedings had potential to interfere with the administration of justice, and that the applicant engaged in improper conduct

Background

The applicant was a Senior Teacher and Data Analyst employed by the respondent, the Director-General, Department of Education. The applicant filed an unfair dismissal application, and the respondent filed a strike out application to dismiss the application. Numerous instances of communications involving the applicant, or their partner were submitted into evidence.

Contentions

The applicant contended she was unfairly dismissed and that the power to dismiss an unfair dismissal application under s 27(1)(a)(iv) of the Industrial Relations Act 1979 (WA) was an exceptional one and should be exercised sparingly and with caution. The applicant contended that dismissing the application would be harsh and extreme, that the Commission’s power to dismiss should not be used to ‘punish’ the applicant and that it was relevant to consider the applicant’s intentions and the effect of her conduct.

The respondent in their strike out application originally contended three grounds, but later reduced this to one. The respondent contended that the application should be dismissed due to the applicant’s improper conduct towards several potential witnesses including by seeking to intimidate them.

Findings

The Commission considered the parties’ submissions and the authorities and principles in relation to its discretion to dismiss unfair dismissal applications. The Commission found that communications by the applicant were inappropriate, fell within the definitions of intimidatory and harassing conduct and constituted improper conduct.

The Commission found that s 27(1)(a) of the IR Act empowers it to dismiss unfair dismissal applications at any stage. The Commission found that the power to dismiss the application under s 27(1)(a)(iv) of the IR Act is an exceptional one, should be exercised sparingly and with extreme caution, and that prima facie, the applicant was entitled to invoke the Commission’s jurisdiction.

The Commission found it would be empowered to dismiss the application if satisfied that ‘for any other reason’ the applicant’s unfair dismissal application should be dismissed. The Commission found that it is entitled to apply the maxims of equity that ‘he who seeks equity must do equity’ and ‘he who seeks equity must come with clean hands.’

The Commission found that the correspondence the applicant sent had the capacity, tendency or potential to interfere with the administration of justice and that the applicant therefore engaged in improper conduct. The Commission found that the applicant had engaged in misconduct in relation to her unfair dismissal application and did not comply with the equitable maxims.

The Commission dismissed the application.

The decision can be read here.

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