TASMANIAN INDUSTRIAL COMMISSION
Industrial Relations Act 1984
Minister Administering the Tasmanian State Service Act 1984
General Conditions of Employment Award
Award variation - nominated public sector awards - State Service Accumulated Leave Scheme - application granted - 1 January 2001
REASONS FOR DECISION
This amended application was made by the Minister Administering the Tasmanian State Service Act 1984 (the Minister) for the purpose of varying certain nominated public sector awards to provide a new form of leave called the State Service Accumulated Leave Scheme (SSALS).
Ms S Cupit, for the Minister, outlined the background and structure of the scheme and some of the anticipated benefits it would bring to employees and employer.
A summary of the scheme is described in clause 2 of the draft order1 tendered by Ms Cupit which states:
"The SSALS allows Heads of Agency to approve Plans under which participating employees will, by taking a reduction in normal salary for a given period, become entitled at the end of that period to a pre-determined amount of special ("accumulated") leave during which they will be paid salary at the same reduced rate."
Ms Cupit advised that SSALS, had been developed over a number of years through consultation and significant input by unions and the Tasmanian Trades and Labor Council (TTLC).
Ms Cupit described the basic structure of SSALS as a "work period followed by a leave period". She said that, in individual SSALS plans, employees were able to choose the time frame of the plan and the proportion of work to leave. This flexibility, she said, would allow employees to elect to participate in a plan that suited their particular circumstances.
It was further submitted that, during the entire length of the plan, a participating employee would be paid a proportion of their normal salary for the work and leave period of their chosen plan. This proportion, it was said, would be calculated by dividing the work period by the total length of the plan.
Ms Cupit contended the SSALS scheme would bring significant benefits to employees and state service agencies, in that:
During a brief adjournment, the Commission viewed a slide presentation conducted by the Minister's representatives.
Ms Fitzgerald, for the TTLC, said that unions had been seeking the introduction of an accumulated leave scheme, or a similar model, since 1983.
She said, the previous government, in its 1996-1997 budget, directed that a flexible delivery salary scheme be available to employees in the Tasmanian State Service. However, Ms Fitzgerald said, the difficulties that were encountered with that plan occurred because the government were proposing that salary be accrued or banked rather than leave be banked.
It was not until April 1999, Ms Fitzgerald submitted, unions finally received a draft document which reflected the objective of public sector workers sacrificing salary in exchange for a new form of leave which she commended the Commission adopt.
Mr Tullgren for the Australian Liquor, Hospitality and Miscellaneous Workers Union - Tasmanian Branch; Ms Strugnell for The Community and Public Sector Union (State Public Services Federation Tasmania) and The Association of Professional Engineers, Scientists and Managers, Australia; Mr Jacobson for the Health Services Union of Australia, Tasmania No. 1 Branch; Mr Lane for the Australian Education Union, Tasmanian Branch; all supported the application and the submissions made by the principal advocates in this matter.
Mr D Lowe of the Tasmanian Salaried Medical Practitioners' Society also supported the proposal before the Commission, however, he did place on record the one reservation he did have - for which he foreshadowed he would be seeking appropriate clarification by way of an exchange of letters - concerning the preservation of sabbatical leave within the Salaried Medical Practitioners (Public Sector) Award 1995. However Mr Lowe accepted the response from the employer's representative that it was not the general intention of SSALS to interfere with the normal process of taking of sabbatical leave.
During the hearing the bench raised a question relating to the accounting mechanisms to be adopted by the employer in the administration of the scheme. In essence the bench sought an undertaking that proper provision would be made for the deferred liability which will attach to any and all employees participating in the scheme. In a subsequent written submission the Minister's representative stated:
Whilst this does not directly respond to the question raised by the bench, we have assumed that appropriate financial provision will be made each financial year and that taxpayers can be confident that there will not be an unanticipated drain on the public purse in future years when the reduced salary is taken out in the form of deferred leave, which will in turn require the absent employee in many, perhaps most, instances to be relieved. If this was not the case then the spectre of something akin to past unfunded superannuation arrangements would loom large and this would be a relevant consideration for the public interest test.
This issue aside, we find the scheme to be innovative with much to commend it and the parties are to be congratulated on a most constructive outcome.
Having considered the submissions and the degree of support from all parties, we have decided to approve the application, in the form set out by the Minister in Exhibits A1 and A4. We have also satisfied ourselves that the application is consistent with the public interest requirements of s.36 of the Act.
In due course members of the Commission will issue orders, in their respective areas of responsibility, giving effect to this decision on and from 1 January 2001.
R J Watling
Date and Place of Hearing:
1 Exhibit A1