||Issue No. 334||24 November 2006|
It’s Who The Economy Works For, Stupid
Interview: Common Ground
Industrial: A Low Act
Unions: The Number of the Least
Politics: The Smoking Gun
Economics: Microcredit, Compulsory Superannuation and Inequality
Environment: Low Voltage
History: The Art of Social Justice
Review: Work’s Unhealthy Appetite
Culture: A Forgotten Poet
Watchdog Bites Own Pups
A Howard appointee to the Federal Court has upheld a decision by a federal government department to ban its own staff from attending next week’s Your Rights at Work rally in their own time.
Management at the Office of Employment Advocate (OEA), the government department charged with the maintenance and promotion of individual contracts, issued a blanket ban on all staff taking leave on Thursday 30 November.
In an internal memo dated 18 October, OEA Corporate Director Ann Skarratt stated that "(all) leave (including flex leave) will not be approved for staff to participate in the 'National Day of Community' protest."
Despite getting his flex application in early, OEA staff member and CPSU member Greg McCarron's request to have the morning off was denied by management, citing the department-wide policy to ban all leave on November 30.
Undeterred, McCarron pressed on. "I fail to see the difference between using my flexible working conditions to go shopping for a couple of hours, having a very long lunch, or going to listen to some speakers for a couple of hours," he reasoned in an e-mail to Skarratt.
CPSU and McCarron sought an injunction against the leave ban before the Federal Court, however recent Government appointee Justice Cowdroy today ruled against the application, upholding the OEA's decision.
National Secretary Stephen Jones is disappointed at the outcome and his union is seeking to appeal the decision to a full-bench.
"If this decision stands, it would confirm that every employer now has the right to determine how staff spend their time on their day off," he said.
"No-one is disputing the right of employers to determine when leave can be taken, but it's curious that this blanket ban is only taking place on November 30."
"It looks like another attempt by the Government to thwart its own staff expressing their concerns at the effect of their extreme industrial laws," Jones said.
It is not the first time the OEA has been accused of pushing the Government's political agenda under the guise of public service independence.
At a recent senate estimates hearing, OEA boss Peter McIllwain confirmed that his department would no longer collect data on the loss of award conditions under new Australian Workplace Agreements (AWA).
The Government had been embarrassed by its own data that showed the majority of WorkChoices AWA has stripped award conditions, such as 63% of new individual contracts that scrapped penalty rates.
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