What are “workplace representatives” for on Consultative Committees?

Who’s pulling these clowns’ strings?

The State Award provides that all councils have to establish a consultative committee and that the committee must have minimum representation from the three unions party to the Award. An opportunity exists for agreement to be reached locally for a Committee to be expanded to ensure that it is “representative of the employer’s workforce” and sometimes that agreement has been reached locally, and sometimes it hasn’t.

The Unions have historically been opposed to non-union members being represented (they don’t want to participate in the regulation of the workforce anyway) and often councils have claimed that the union representatives don’t properly represent the workforce but haven’t been able to establish whether that is true or not. Usually, it’s just said to allow councils to find some compliant people who won’t be any trouble.

One of the problems with the potential election of people as a “workplace representative” who may not be union members is that they have nowhere to get advice on the complicated and vexed issues that are the staple diet of the consultative committee. And if they don’t have friendly union officials to ring for advice, what do they do? Well, what they usually do is ask the boss, or HR, or suck up to the GM or something like that, and that doesn’t make an effective workplace representative at all.

The three unions have now reached agreement on a Joint Statement to assist our local delegates make a judgement about whether or not they should agree to expand membership of the committee because someone reckons that it’s not properly “representative” of the workforce. Let’s face it, there is not one job in local government, where the employee can’t belong to one, or sometimes more, of the three unions.

The provision of the Joint Statement will make it easier for our local representatives to say no. And it squarely puts the onus on the employer to establish that the existing union representation is not representative.

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