Bus SA Member Alert – July 2020

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Minimum wage increase and new pay rates

The recent minimum wage increase is 1.75% (an increase of $13.00 to the minimum wage now at $753.80).

The impact for our industry is that the introduction this year has been staggered, as follows:

  • PVTA – Stage 2, increase from 1 November 2020
  • Clerks Award – Stage 2 increase from 1 November 2020Manufacturers Award – Stage 2 from 1 November 2020
  • Vehicle Repair Award – Stage 3 from 1 February 2021

Note: Increases to allowances will also be staggered to these dates.

New pay rates

‘COVID clean’ – national training

‘COVID clean’ is nationally recognised training in infection prevention and control, designed for the transport and logistics sector. It is aimed at owners/supervisors/operations managers, who then pass the learnings on within their company.

Bus SA believes this initiative is extremely valuable. A high level of training across our industry means a better educated workforce and sends a strong message that we are serious about the safety of passengers and staff.

It is a short course, with four-six hours of ‘classwork’, plus a written assessment and a simulated workplace assessment. At the end of the training attendees receive a certificate of attainment.

Bus SA is already working with its Members to organise their training. We strongly encourage our partners and others in the industry to explore the opportunity.

The training is heavily government subsidised, with a fee of $15 per participant. There are several training providers offering the course in South Australia.

You can find out more on the skills.sa.gov.au website, or feel free to contact Andrea at Bus SA on 8269 1077, email admin@bussa.asn.au.

The Passenger Vehicle Transportation Award 2020 – presentations

Bus SA Members – join us on 14 July 2020 at 11 am
via Zoom and learn all about the PVTA 2020

On 13 March 2020, the Passenger Vehicle Transportation Award 2020 replaced the previous Passenger Vehicle Transportation Award 2010 as the terms and conditions of employment for bus and coach drivers across Australia. It is important to understand the terms of the PVTA 2020, whether as part of an existing employment arrangement or in any future employment negotiation.

Join Ian MacDonald – APTIA National IR Manager – for a presentation on the PVTA 2020. The presentation will take place via Zoom with Bus SA members only. You will discuss the relevant terms of employment, issues around wage rates and how casual employment is now treated under the PVTA 2020.

Please join us for this meeting, and RSVP by email to Andrea (admin@bussa.asn.au) by 07 July.

If you are not available at this time and still want to hear Ian’s presentation, let me know and we can organise for you to jump in on one of the other meetings Ian is holding.

You can also see APTIA’s fifth edition explanatory notes on the PVTA 2020 – available on their website.

Industrial relations news

Ian MacDonald, National Industrial Relations Manager APTIA

Everybody Out

The industry newsletter produced by the Australian Public Transport Industrial Association (APTIA), the industrial arm of the Bus Industry Confederation (BIC). See the June 2020 edition.

Also see this Q&A based on COVID-19 business-related questions that many in the industry have been asking.

Pandemic leave

The Union movement continues to push for paid pandemic leave whilst amendments to the Fair Work Act 2009 allow for 5 days unpaid pandemic leave, due to expire at the end of September.

Up until 29 June 2020 most modern Awards, including the Passenger Vehicle Transportation Award 2020, had a clause which allowed an employee to take 14 days unpaid pandemic leave on the basis that the employee had either contracted the disease, had come into contact with someone who had or who was returning from overseas or a hotspot and was required to isolate for 14 days.

The provision in the PVTA and other modern Awards was due to expire on 29 June 2020 with the Fair Work Commission indicating that they had no intention to extend the right. Some applications have been received in other Awards to extend the unpaid pandemic leave until the end of July.

The have been some other developments relating to payments for pandemic leave:

  • The ACTU, in the light of the reluctance to renew the Award variations and impending discussions, has renewed calls for the government to provide a guarantee of two weeks paid leave for all workers, permanent, casual and contract, who are forced to self-isolate as a result of the COVID- 19 pandemic.

There has been no commitment federally however, there have been developments in Queensland and Victoria

  • The Queensland government has announced it is paying a one off hardship payment of $1,500 to any casually employed Queenslander who is not eligible for a JobKeeper Payment who contracts COVID-19 and does not have access to an income during their time away from work. The Queensland government is also making this hardship payment available to any employee who has exhausted their sick leave or pandemic leave entitlement and tests positive to COVID-19.
  • The Victorian government has announced a $1,500 hardship payment for Victorians affected by COVID-19 to stop sick and infected people from going to work. The payment is available to confirmed cases and those who are close contacts who cannot rely on sick leave. Further detail on the proposed payment have not yet been released.

Redundancies (a change in terms and conditions of employment)

The Federal Court has recently confirmed that a reduction in an employee’s terms and conditions of employment without consent can give rise to a redundancy entitlement, even where the employee continues working for their employer.

The decision should act as a warning to employers looking to unilaterally reduce conditions in response to changing business demands.

In Broadlex Services Pty Ltd v United Workers’ Union [2020] FCA 867, the employer, Broadlex, decided to reduce the working hours of its full-time employee, Ms Vrtkovski, by 40%.

The reduction from 38 hours per week to 20 hours per week was documented in a consent form which Broadlex asked its employee to sign. The employee refused to sign the form but continued working for Broadlex after the reduction in hours.

Years later, the United Workers Union filed a claim alleging that the employee’s material reduction in conditions triggered a redundancy payment. Broadlex denied the claim, arguing that the employee’s continued employment meant that no redundancy could have arisen as her employment was never terminated.

In a surprising decision, Justice Katzman found that a redundancy was triggered because the reduction in hours had the effect of terminating the employee’s employment.

As employers respond to financial distress caused by COVID-19, it is important that consent is obtained for contractual variations. Alternatively, employers need to ensure any variations to the employment are permitted by the relevant employment contract (or possibly industrial instrument).

Businesses need to take care when making reductions are being made to large numbers of employees to avoid a compounding of exposure and the possibility of class actions.