Protecting your entitlements Part 2: If it's a condition of employment, it's a condition of employment

We reported briefly in the December issue about attempts by Singleton Council to remove an entitlement for Indoor Staff to three days concession leave over Christmas/New Year, which they had enjoyed as an entitlement under Council policy since 1984. We stopped the Council removing this entitlement in 2011 and ensured that if they want to do anything at all about it in 2012 and subsequently, they need to negotiate with the unions.

This was a messy dispute. Representatives of the Outdoor Staff thought it made sense to have Indoor Staff forfeit some of these days so that the Council could then provide a similar arrangement for the Outdoor Staff - clearly it didn't occur to anyone at the time that the best way of establishing an equitable practice is to bring everyone together on the better standard.

The Council also mistakenly thought that they could remove this entitlement with a resolution of the Consultative Committee - something the Committee did at meetings not attended by our representative, nor that of the LGEA. Charming.

But our proceedings in the Industrial Relations Commission late last year foiled this and subsequently the Council agreed to reinstate the entitlement for 2011 and think about it again in 2012.

If an employee starts work at a Council and there is a condition of employment contained in a Council policy, then that becomes a condition of employment for anyone employed while ever that policy exists. Having an entitlement under Council policy is the best and longest-lasting way of protecting an entitlement.

Entitlements can only be protected for the duration of an industrial instrument like an Award, or an Enterprise Agreement or even a Council Agreement under the Local Government (State) Award but if you have a council policy, it's very, very hard for a Council to remove it. They can decide that they won't provide it to new employees but it is virtually untouchable of those who already have it.

Please contact the office for advice if you find yourself in a similar situation.

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