Overtime dispute with Rural Fire Service: An update for PSA members - Public Service Association

Overtime dispute with Rural Fire Service: An update for PSA members

On 30 May 2023, the Industrial Relations Commission published its decision in regard to the overtime dispute. You can read the full decision HERE. In brief, the Commission has recommended that:

“The parties are to confer with a view to agreeing on the requirements of what work is to be treated as overtime and paid as such for the purposes of cl 7.9 of the Crown Employees (Rural Fire Service) Award 2019 and what work is to be the subject of hour for hour time off (under a local arrangement or LA time).

The above requirements should distinguish between the requirement to work the hours as required by the respondent and work performed at the hours at the request of the employee(s).”

In accordance with the recommendation, the PSA has written to the Rural Fire Service (RFS) and identified the various circumstances it considers overtime to arise under cl 7.9 of the RFS Award. You can read that correspondence HERE.

The RFS took the unprecedented (at least for them) position that it would not follow any recommendation made in the dispute by the Commission that it did not agree with. Accordingly, we anticipate that the RFS will refuse to negotiate with the PSA in accordance with recommendation.

While it is correct that recommendations made by the Commission are, strictly speaking, non-binding, any responsible employer should abide by recommendations as they are made by the independent industrial tribunal. Considering the high calibre of the RFS’s legal representation during the proceedings, the RFS’s refusal to follow any recommendation it does not agree with smacks of arrogance.

In addition to the recommendation, the Commission rejected the foundational element of the RFS’s case during these proceedings. That being, that overtime only applies if an employee is working under “an authoritative instruction, command, order or ordnance. In rejecting this aspect of the RFS’s case, the Commission found that such an interpretation “… runs counter to how modern workplaces operate”.  In light of this finding, one aspect of the PSA’s proposal to the RFS is that overtime applies when an employee is asked by the RFS to work before 7:30am or after 6:00pm on weekdays or at any time on weekends or public holidays.

The union will always seek to resolve disputes in an amicable manner. However, this matter has remained unresolved since the PSA notified the RFS in 2015 of your union’s intent to negotiate a new award on behalf of its members. It was the RFS that walked away from the negotiation table.

The PSA would like to thank the members who gave evidence in this matter and rest assured the union will always fight for the fairest outcomes. This matter and others will be raised with the Government’s newly formed Industrial Relations Taskforce.

We will provide a further update on this matter in the coming weeks.

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