Tribunal finds State Government discriminated against teachers and health workers in wages dispute

The State Government directly discriminated against its own employees and promoted discrimination in its attempts to sanction union members for attending stop work meetings, the anti-discrimination tribunal has found.

On Wednesday, after years of argument, the Anti-Discrimination branch of the Tasmanian Civil and Administrative Tribunal found the State Government clearly discriminated against union members who attended Stop Work meetings during 2018 bitter pay disputes.

The Tribunal found the Government discriminated against union members who sought to take time off in lieu or access other flexible work arrangements to attend union meetings.

It was determined these workers were treated differently to others who were not involved in industrial activity.

The breach of the Act followed a message sent to all employees by State Service senior officers denying union members leave to attend union meetings.

Treating union members differently to other workers was a clear breach of the Anti-Discrimination Act by discriminating against an employee for participating in “industrial activity”, it was found.

AEU Tasmania President David Genford said this action represented a huge win for union members and the union movement.

“The State Government tried to scare members away from taking industrial action and has now been called out for discrimination and denying people their rights – this is a unacceptable and it’s pleasing to see a common-sense outcome has prevailed,” he said.

“Union members deserve to be able to stand up for their working conditions and not be kept silent. The State Government should now issue an apology to all employees affected by this serious breach.”

HACSU State Secretary Tim Jacobson agreed.

“While finding the State Government did in fact discriminate against union members, it also ordered that the parties confer on the appropriate terms of an apology,” he said.

“It is open to the Government to appeal the decision. It remains to be seen if the State Government intends to waste significant taxpayer money avoiding simply saying sorry to its own workers.

“When the Government says to its workforce that it will negotiate in good faith but then resorts to clearly discriminatory activity to undermine workers protests, it leaves serious questions as to the genuineness of that rhetoric”.

The Government’s current 2.5% wages allocation in the State Budget already creates the potential for further industrial action, said Mr Jacobson.

“As Unions prepare for the next round of wages negotiations, the decision highlights the lengths this Government will go to to stop workers protesting against clearly unfair wages policies,” he said.