Member Alert – December 2020

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Bus SA wishes a very Merry Christmas to all our Members, valued partners, friends and supporters.

We hope you get some valuable time to relax, recharge, and be with family, and look forward to seeing you next year.

Here’s hoping that 2021 is an enormous anticlimax compared to 2020.

Outgoing President's Report

Well, what a year this has been, we’ve had fire, flood and pandemic. I’m sure there’s also been pestilence and plague somewhere in the world, just to cap it off.

I’ve been proud (but not surprised) by the determination and sheer grit of bus operators and staff as they’ve navigated the uncertainty of 2020. It’s been a stressful time. Enforced shutdowns. Not knowing when and whether services could continue running. New cleaning and sanitising regimes to come to grips with. Not to mention the complications of complying with rushed government policies and mountains of new paperwork.

While some of our members have made it through this year unscathed, others have had to close their doors temporarily – and in one case permanently. I send my personal and heartfelt best wishes to every one of you, and sincerely hope that 2021 will be a much better year for all.

Our AGM was held in November and at this meeting I chose to step down as President of Bus SA, as did Dean McGinty our Vice President. Both of us have been honoured to hold these positions for several years and believe it is time to pass along the baton to bring in some fresh ideas.

Stephen Lucas from Mt Gambier Buslines and Chris Cudsi from 13Cabs are the new President and Vice President, respectively. Please join me in welcoming them into the top spots.

Also AGM-related, one of our long-serving Board members, Ashley Barnes from Keolis Downer, has retired from Board. I would like to acknowledge his contribution to Bus SA. Ashley is a great source of knowledge and wisdom; he will be missed. In his place Cathy Allen, General Manager for Keolis Downer Bus in South Australia, has joined the Board. Welcome on board Cathy!

Wishing you all a very Merry Christmas, I hope you get a break over the end of year period and come back refreshed and ready to roll in 2021.

Over and out,
Ben Romanowski

President's Report

As you now know from reading his message, Ben Romanowski has stepped down as Bus SA President as of the November AGM (although he remains on the Board). Ben has given generously of his time and expertise and ensured your Association is well positioned for the future.

I thank the Board for their confidence in electing me as the Bus SA President from 2020. My company’s bus operations in South Australia centre on Mt Gambier, with many years’ experience as an operator in most states of Australia, I believe I have a good grasp of the difficulties faced by Industry and look forward to helping member operators prosper.

During my tenure, I hope to enable the ongoing good work of the Board. I served as the inaugural President of BIC and intend that the creation of good policy for Bus SA will be a hallmark of my presidency. I look forward to constructive talks with government with the aim of improving bus transport outcomes for South Australians.

I know many of you already and look forward to catching up with those of you I haven’t yet met.

On behalf of Bus SA, I wish all our members a safe and happy Christmas and a safe and prosperous New Year.

Stephen Lucas, President

2021 Sydney Bus and Coach Expo

Bus and Coach Expo photography courtesy BusNSW
Bus and Coach Expo photography courtesy BusNSW

The 2021 Sydney Bus and Coach Expo will be held on 29-30 September in The Dome and Halls of the Sydney Showground, at Sydney Olympic Park.

Executive Director of BusNSW, Matt Threlkeld, says he is expecting keen exhibitor interest, with the Expo back in Sydney for the first time in five years. Preparations are well underway and BusNSW has already started discussions with partners and industry suppliers wishing to exhibit at the COVID Safe event.

“The last Expo in Sydney in 2016 was deemed a world-class exhibition and one of the best ever undertaken in Australia. In 2021 we are hoping to build on that success with an increased number of displays covering more than 14,000 square metres, all under the one roof,” said Threlkeld.

“We will again have free entry and a focus on the exhibition to maximise attendance by key decision makers representing bus and coach operators, large and small.

“With over two thousand attendees in 2016 and five years between shows in Sydney, the 2021 show provides an exceptional opportunity for industry suppliers to display new products and technology,” Matt said.

The event is being held at a time when public transport is a high priority for state and federal governments and there is a strong focus on transitioning to zero-emission bus fleets.

In future, the Bus and Coach Expo will alternate between Sydney and Melbourne every two years, with the Sydney Expo being managed by BusNSW and the Melbourne Expo by BusVic.

A new website has been launched for the Expo, where suppliers, operators and industry stakeholders can keep informed in the lead-up to the event. Visit www.busandcoachexpo.com.au.

This article is used with permission by Australian Bus and Coach Magazine. It is an edited version, read the original article here. Photography courtesy of BusNSW.

Emergency Declarations and Directions

When the Prime Minister makes recommendations to the states about restriction guidelines relating to COVID-19, each state must then consider how those recommendations will be applied.

They are not enforceable in South Australia until the State Coordinator, Commissioner Grant Stevens, enacts a Direction. The South Australian Directions apply to everyone living in, and entering, South Australia.

Visit the web page for South Australian Emergency Declarations and Directions.

Face masks - must I wear one?

At this time in South Australia it is not mandatory for the general community, but it is recommended to wear a mask when out in public if you are unable to physically distance.

Try to get into the habit of always having a face mask handy and wearing one when you’re out and about. If heading to the supermarket, for example, it’s a very good idea to wear one.

What about bus drivers?

Given the amount of public contact they have on a day-to-day basis, we recommend you encourage your drivers to wear face masks, if they’re not already doing so.

You can find lots of information about face mask use, how to wear and fit them, and for whom it is mandatory, on the SA Health website.

Industrial Relations news

Ian MacDonald, National Industrial Relations Manager BIC and APTIA

Overtime for Casuals

On 30 October 2020, the Fair Work Commission (the Commission) announced updates to casual and overtime clauses. The updated clauses started from the first full pay period on or after 20 November 2020.

The Office of the Fair Work Ombudsman has now issued an update of their pay guide which had previously shown the payment of the casual loading for overtime worked by a casual employee.

Please note that when a casual works on a weekend the payment to a casual is the higher of the payments i.e. the weekend penalties which includes the casual loading or the loading for overtime which excludes the casual loading.

The correct rates of pay are set out in the Fair Work Ombudsman’s pay guide documentation. It’s available in the Member’s Only area of this website, or non-Bus SA members can visit the Ombudsman’s website.

Sick Pay for Casuals in Victoria

The Victorian Andrews Government is set to introduce a scheme providing up to five days’ sick and carer’s pay at the national minimum wage for casual or insecure workers in priority industries.

The Victorian government’s COVID-19 Test Isolation Payment and the Commonwealth’s Pandemic Leave Disaster Payment for people who are required to isolate after a positive diagnosis or quarantine as a close contact will also remain available.

Rossato’s case headed for the High Court

Australian businesses have been thrown a lifeline in the fight against double-dipping claims, following the High Court’s decision to grant special leave to Workpac and the Australian Government to appeal the decision of the Federal Court in the Workpac v Rossato case.

The Federal Court’s decision exposed many businesses to the possibility of having to pay casuals twice for leave, placing both the jobs of more than a million casual employees into doubt and exposing employers to more than $14 billion in backpay claims.

Superannuation guarantee increases?

The superannuation guarantee is due to increase to 10% on 1 July 2021 and thereafter by .5% each year until it reaches 12% by 2025.

The Federal Government’s retirement incomes review, released recently, has warned that increases in compulsory super contributions will curb wage growth and reduce living standards during employees’ working lives.

It raises doubts about the need for the legislated increase in contributions to 12% in 2025, saying that across most income levels, this would lead to workers exceeding the adequacy benchmark of 65% to 75% of pre-retirement earnings.

The review suggests that rather than increasing compulsory super, a “bigger impact” on retirement incomes can be achieved through “more efficient use of savings”.

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg told journalists that the Government would consider the review and other views “and make a decision on that. . . before the scheduled increase takes place (from 9.5% to 10% on July 1 next year)”.

Wage Price Index (September quarter)

Private sector pay rates excluding bonuses increased by 0.1% seasonally adjusted and 0.5% in original terms in the September quarter, according to the ABS.

The latest quarterly Wage Price Index is the second to measure the full impact of the coronavirus pandemic, after the Bureau in the previous quarter reported the first negative result in the WPI’s 23- year history, with rates of pay excluding bonuses growing at -0.1% in the private sector in original terms (with the resumption of publication of seasonally-adjusted data, the ABS says that rates increased by 0.1% in the private sector in the June quarter, in seasonally-adjusted terms).

Private sector rates in the latest release grew by 1.2% annually in seasonally adjusted terms and 1.3% unadjusted. A substantial gap has now opened up between private and public sector growth in rates, with annual increases in the public sphere of 1.8% in both seasonally adjusted and original terms.

It underlines the timeliness of the Federal Government’s decision to tie Australian Public Service pay rises to private sector growth rates. Rates excluding bonuses in the public sector grew by 0.2% seasonally adjusted and 0.4% in original terms.

Across the economy, rates grew by 0.1% seasonally adjusted and 0.4% unadjusted in the quarter and 1.4% over 12 months (seasonally adjusted and unadjusted). Rates including bonuses grew by 0.6% in the September quarter in the private sector, unadjusted, after a drop of 0.1% in the June quarter.

Legislative changes to the Fair Work Act

The Job Keeper Scheme

The coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has drastically shifted the course of life across the globe in 2020.

In Australia, the Federal Government has rolled out a suite of financial stimulus packages to buoy the Australian economy where possible and support employers, employees and those who now find themselves out of work.

Job Keeper, which has been supporting up to 3.5 million Australians has been extended, until 28 March 2021, albeit in a revised form.

Job Keeper2 began from 28 September 2020 and runs until 28 March 2021. It not only includes employees who are eligible Job Keeper recipients but also those employees, who had previously been eligible as of 28 February 2020 and whose employers continue to experience a 10% reduction in turnover.

Employers, who are eligible to participate in the Job Keeper scheme, should be aware of the particular legal obligations applicable under the Fair Work Act 2009, respective State and Territory WHS legislation and workers compensation legislation, as well as enterprise agreements, awards, contracts and policies.

The Job Keeper Payment allows eligible employers who elect to participate in the scheme to claim a fortnightly payment for each eligible employee to subsidise their wage. The payment rate is reduced in two phases and differs depending on the number of hours worked.

Job Keeper Payments Period

28 September 2020 to 3 January 2021 – If you worked 80 hours in any 28-day period you are entitled to be paid $1,200.00 for each fortnightly pay.

Period 28 September 2020 to 3 January 2021 – If you worked less than 80 hours in a 28-day period you are entitled to be paid $750.00 for each fortnightly pay.

Period 4 January 2021 to 28 March 2021 – If you worked 80 hours or more in a 28-day period you are entitled to $1,000.00 for each fortnightly pay.

Period 4 January 2021 to 28 March 2021 – If you worked less than 80 hours in 28-day period you are entitled to $650.00 for each fortnightly pay.

The full amount of the Job Keeper Payment, before tax, must be passed from employer to employee each fortnight or the business owner will face stiff penalties.

Changes to the Fair Work Act

The Fair Work Act 200 was amended on 9 April 2020 to account for the Corona Virus. The amendments introduced provision relating to:
  1. Employer payment obligations – required an employer to pay to each eligible employee the greater the job keeper payment or the hours of work completed by the employee over the fortnight.
  2. Job Keeper enabling stand downs – which allowed an employer to stand down an employee who could not be usefully employed for the employee’s normal hours of work.
  3. Duties, Locations, and days of work – an employer may direct an employee to change their duties, location or days of work provided it was safe to do so and within the employee’s competency.
  4. Taking of paid annual leave – an employer can require an employee to take twice as much leave on half pay, which cannot be unreasonably refused. Must have at least 2 weeks available.
  5. Stand Downs – If an employee cannot be usefully employed then an employer can opt to require that employee to stand down from work until the time when they can be usefully employed.
The Act also provided rules to an employer for implementing the Job Keeper enabling directions, which included:
  • Giving written notice of 3 days before implementing the enabling directions.
  • Consulting with the employee regarding the enabling directions.
  • Keeping a written record of the consultations.
  • Ensuring that the direction was reasonable i.e. was it necessary to continue the employment of the employee.
In addition, the amendments to the Fair Work Act provided for:
  • An employee to request further employment training if required to meet the enabling direction.
  • The Fair Work Commission to intervene to deal with any dispute that might arise between an employer and employee as a result of the enabling directions.
  • An employee’s ability to agree or disagree to perform duties on different days or at different times at the request of an employer is still a workplace right for the purposes of general protections under the Fair Work Act. Adverse action cannot be taken against an employee because of the employee’s workplace right.
Direction to change location of work An employer, including a legacy employer, can direct an employee to change their location of work and to perform their duties at a place different to their normal workplace including the employee’s home provided:
  • The place is suitable for the employee’s duties.
  • The location is safe, considering the nature and spread of COVID-19.
  • The performance of duties at the new location is reasonably within the scope of the employer’s business operations.
  • The direction is reasonable in all the circumstances, including (but not limited to) considering the employee’s caring responsibilities and if the direction will have a disparate effect on a category of employees over others who are subject to the same direction.
  • The employer has information before them that leads them to reasonably believe that this Job Keeper direction is necessary to maintain the employment of the employee.
The employer needs to have factual information before them that leads them to reasonably believe that it is necessary. “Necessary” is best thought of as something more than desirable or preferred. In considering whether something is “necessary” employers could apply the following test to their thinking: ’But for’ directing the employee to perform different duties the employee would be made redundant.” Direction to change usual duties An employer, including a legacy employer can direct an employee to change their usual work duties (called a Job Keeper enabling stand down direction) provided:
  • The modified duties are within the employee’s skill and competence and the employee holds any necessary license or qualification required to perform the duties.
  • The duties are safe considering the nature and spread of COVID-19.
  • The duties are reasonably within the scope of the employer’s business operations.
  • The direction is reasonable in all the circumstances, including (but not limited to) considering the employee’s caring responsibilities and if the direction will have a disparate effect on a category of employees over others who are subject to the same direction, and
  • The employer has information before them that leads them to reasonably believe that this Job Keeper direction is necessary to maintain the employment of the employee.
The employer needs to have actual factual information before them that leads them to reasonably believe that it is necessary. “Necessary” is best thought of as something more than desirable or preferred. When considering whether something is “necessary” employers could apply the following test to their thinking: “But for” directing the employee to perform different duties the employee would be made redundant. Employers must pay an employee performing new duties the higher of an hourly base rate which is either:
  1. The base hourly pay rate that applies to their previous duties (prior to the direction to change duties); or
  2. The base rate that applies to the new duties the employee is performing
Request to work different days / times of work An employer, including a legacy employer can request an employee who previously received Job Keeper payments to perform their duties on different days and/or at different times compared to the employee’s normal ordinary days / hours of work provided that:
  • The performance of the duties on those days is generally safe considering the nature and spread of COVID-19.
  • The performance of the duties on those days is reasonably within the scope of the employer’s business operations.
  • The agreement does not have the effect of reducing the employee’s number of hours of work, in the case of legacy employees, compared to the employee’s ordinary hours of work.
  • The agreement does not have the effect of requiring the employee to work less than 2 consecutive hours in a day that they do work (minimum engagement requirement).
An employee cannot unreasonably refuse such a request. Employees must be paid in full for the days/time they work including any applicable penalty rates, loadings or other allowance which might apply to their alternative days/times of work. Stand down An employer, including a legacy employer, can give a direction for an employee to:
  • Not work on a day or days on which the employee would usually work.
  • Work for a lesser period than the period which the employee would ordinarily work on a particular day or days.
  • Work a reduced number of hours (compared with the employee’s ordinary hours of work), and not be paid for the period that work is not performed provided. An employer can give this direction so long as the period of the stand down the employee cannot be “usefully employed” for the employee’s normal days or hours because of changes to business attributable to the COVID-19 pandemic or Government initiatives to slow the transmission of COVID-19, the direction can be implemented safely, having regard to the nature and spread of COVID-19 and the “wage condition” is satisfied. (i.e. This requires an employee to be paid at a minimum the Job Keeper payment rate per fortnight, before tax.)

MerryChristmas to one and all