AMMA employee relations consultant Estha van der Linden summarises a recent Fair Work decision in which a union won rights to select who could assist in redundancies, but also failed in two other bids to manage redundancy criteria and workforce levels.

In a recent decision heard by the Fair Work Commision, the Maritime Union of Australia applied for three orders relating to the redundancies stemming from the relocation of the Webb dock facility within the Port of Melbourne.

The Union won one out of three orders when Commissioner Anna Lee Cribb ordered late on Wednesday that forepersons should help to conduct performance assessments to select employees for redundancy. The company had intended that shift supervisors would undertake the task.

Commissioner Cribb ruled that it would be “unreasonable not to have the input of the people who have the most knowledge of the employees’ skills and work performance, in the assessment process, in addition to the shift supervisors.”.

The second order requested by the MUA to block redundancies of set numbers of full-time employees, part-timers and supplementary employees was rejected on the basis that “there is not a sufficient evidentiary basis on which to supplant the company’s decision about the appropriate labour model for its business moving forward”.

Commissioner Cribb ruled “There would have to be strong evidence before the Commission would step into the shoes of the company and determine that either the union’s or the Commission’s view about staffing was the correct model, rather than that of the company.”

The third order requested by the MUA sought criteria to select employees for redundancy based on a formula of: experience (25% weighting); skills (10%); disciplinary record (15%); and performance (50%). In rejecting the request, Commissioner Cribb said the union had failed to convince her to interfere with Patrick’s selection criteria because what Patrick’s had proposed was “neither unfair nor unreasonable.”

A spokesperson for Asciano, which owns Patrick, said it expects 21 redundancies – 13 full-time employees and eight part-time employees.

For the full decision, click here.

Implications for AMMA Members

This decision has implications on employer’s ability to determine correct staffing levels without the direct interference of the Union. However it highlights the importance of ensuring that the employees who create selection criteria for the redundancies have the most knowledge of the employee’s skills and performance.

Redundancy is a complex field of the workplace system with many AMMA members reporting difficult understanding their rights and obligations. AMMA’s workplace consultants can provide advice and information about managing redundancies. Call your local AMMA office to speak to one of our workplace relations experts.