Industrial Relations “101”

Industrial relations can be a complex and confusing area. It is important that Reps have a solid understanding of the main elements so they can keep members informed of key developments.

About every three years, your union negotiates with employers new industrial Agreements which regulate salaries and some conditions of employment for members in each sector. Agreements on specific issues such as Transfers and Principals’ Classifications are also negotiated.

There are three Awards which also regulate salaries and conditions of members. These are seen as safety net documents. Where Agreements and Awards deal with the same matter, the Agreement prevails over the Award.

To give Agreements and Awards the force of law, they must be registered by the Tasmanian Industrial Commission. It is AEU policy that Agreements must be supported by a majority vote of affected members before we seek to have them registered.

If you need to check a salary or a condition of employment, the first document you go to is the relevant Agreement. If the Agreement has no information on a particular issue, then you need to check the Award.

See the website for all relevant Awards and Agreements.

Log of Claims

Leading up to negotiations for new Agreements, the AEU seeks input from members through surveys and meetings to ascertain which issues members see as important and in need of addressing. Where appropriate, such issues are then included in a Log of Claims.

A Log of Claims sets out the issues that members want addressed and how they should be changed. At the end of the day, it is Branch Executive/Council who sign-off on a Log of Claims. For the TAFE Log of Claims, the sign-off is done by the TAFE Executive/Council.

The State Manager, as the lead Industrial Officer, determines who will negotiate on behalf of the Branch. Usually the State Manager leads the team and includes at least one other employee, often an Industrial Organiser. Other employees, or members, may be asked to join because of special knowledge about a particular issue.

Negotiations

Negotiations usually begin with a claim by the AEU (Log of Claims) and a counter claim by the employer. Readily agreed matters are put to one side. However, no single claim is officially agreed to unless an agreement is reached on all matters. In essence the aim is to reach agreement and often compromises are required.

Sometimes compromise is not appropriate, or even possible, and decisions have to be made about whether to accept the outcome or whether to exert industrial pressure.

Industrial action

Industrial action represents a continuum of activities ranging from low-level action such as work-to-rule, to full-scale industrial action and strikes.

The type of action taken and the timing is based on strategic planning and consideration about how to secure the best outcome for members. Your elected representatives on Branch Executive and Branch Council make the final decision.

Industrial campaigns can be exhaustive and stressful. If industrial action is planned it is critical that members and Reps actively support their union’s position and be involved in activities.

Role of Reps

The role of Reps at this time is vital. Attendance at regional meetings is required so Reps can be informed of developments and to feedback to the State Manager and President the views of members and their preparedness to support claims in the negotiations.

The negotiation of Agreements takes many months. It is essential during this time that Reps act as the link between the members, the negotiators and the President. Reps must ensure that they keep themselves and members up to date.

When it is felt that agreement has been achieved, it is the policy of our Branch to ballot affected members. A majority vote determines future action which may be to:

  • proceed to have the Agreement registered
  • return to negotiations
  • proceed with industrial action.