Initial proceedings in the SSDS application to the Fair Work Commission, seeking a waiver or reduction of severance payments due to employees who finished up on the Northern Territory Kimberly (NTK) contract on 30 September concluded on 14 October 2014. Commissioner Roe has reserved his decision while he considers the evidence and submissions.
Similar SSDS applications for the NSW, ACT and Shoalhaven contracts will be heard by Commissioner Roe on 17, 18 and 19 November 2014. Branch officials are presently working with members in those areas to select witnesses and prepare statements. Dates for the Queensland proceedings are yet to be scheduled.
There are two criteria SSDS must satisfy the Commission they have met to avoid redundancy payments. The proceedings to date have dealt with only the first criteria:
Has SSDS itself 'obtained' any of the jobs some employees have started on with incoming contractors?
If SSDS cannot prove that it was the company rather than members themselves who obtained the new NTK positions then that will be the end of the case and employees will, (subject to any appeal) receive their severance pay. But if SSDS is successful at this stage the Commission will then reconvene and consider the second criteria, which is:
Are the new positions truly 'other acceptable employment'?
United Voice doesn't think any of the new NTK jobs can fairly be regarded acceptable alternatives. Members have lost accrued entitlements like sick and long service leave. The SSDS Agreement no longer applies and members have lost conditions including extra annual leave and parental leave payments. Members will have to enterprise bargain with the new contractors to get any improvements. For the first six months of the new employment employees have no right to file an unfair dismissal application if they are sacked. Your union thinks the new employment is significantly different to the old jobs on many levels.
During the proceedings completed on 14 October, United Voice members were the only employee witnesses who appeared. Members who had been successful in getting a new job gave evidence they had achieved that themselves and SSDS had not assisted them in any real way. Incoming contractor management witnesses from Transfield and Wilson Security also told the Commission that SSDS did little to assist its workers find work with them.
United Voice's lawyers were pleased with the evidence your co-members gave and your union will communicate with members when Commissioner Roe's decision is released. Together, we continue to resist the SSDS grab for members' entitlements.