19 Feb Guidance on COVID-19 Consultation
The Fair Work Commission has put forward a recommended framework for consulting about COVID-19 related proposals to Santos, AWU and the AMWU, after the AMWU and the AWU notified disputes about changes regarding Government COVID-19 guidelines and Santos’ responses.
Commissioner Peter Hampton recommended a broader approach to consulting workers and their representatives.
He said information about the “changing context as it may impact on Santos, its operations and employees should be provided on an ongoing basis”. Noting it would be appropriate for Santos to inform the AWU and AMWU of COVID-19 related developments that will or may impact upon employees. He also said this should be in addition to the current notification practice Santos had in place set out in a workplace change clause in its 2019 Cooper Bason agreement which requires Santos to discuss proposals with employees or representatives once finalised if they “may have significant effects on employees“.
He highlighted the benefits of early genuine engagement and said it would be “prudent for Santos to consult about any proposed changes” not provided for in the agreement if they will or will be likely to “have an effect upon the employment levels, the elimination or diminution of job opportunities, promotional opportunities or job tenure“. He said it should also consult on proposals likely to affect working conditions, rosters, ordinary hours, or significantly change the workforce’s composition, size or skills required.
Even if a “major change” is not involved, the Commissioner said Santos should give written notice with sufficient detail for workers to understand the basis for changes and measures that might mitigate or reduce adverse effects.
It was recommended that Santos and the Unions further discuss the disputes with a view to reaching agreement on future processes to give effect to the framework outlined.