Office Accommodation - IRC decision


Earlier this week the Industrial Relations Commission ('Commission') handed down its decision regarding the interpretation and application of clause 3 Issue Resolution of the Staff Specialists (State) Award 2018 in the ongoing office accommodation matter against the Ministry of Health.

The Commission found in favour of ASMOF and rejected the arguments put forward by the Ministry with the effect that the Ministry must continue to enforce the rescinded office accommodation policy directive until the substantiative dispute is resolved. The substantiative dispute is whether the Ministry's new workplace accommodation policy is in breach of clause 24 of the Award.

This decision came about after ASMOF sought a recommendation from the Commission that in accordance with the status quo provision under clause 3 of the Award, the Ministry must not publish the new workplace accommodation policy which provides for open plan offices whilst the dispute continues.

The Ministry challenged this proposed recommendation on a number of technical grounds whilst also requesting the Commission to exercise it's discretion by allowing the Ministry to publish the new policy in circumstances where it may in fact be in breach of the Award.

This decision of the Commission is significant in many ways. Firstly, it prevents the Ministry from publishing the new policy which hospitals would then be obliged to comply with. This means that the redevelopments that are currently underway, could implement open plan offices which may be ultimately in breach of the Award. Accordingly, ASMOF and its members now have further time to fight this issue together at each relevant site.

Moreover, if the Ministry was successful in its arguments it would have had a wider reaching and detrimental impact on dispute resolution within NSW Health. Firstly, it would have meant that doctors would lose their anonymity as they would be required to raise the dispute with their employer individually. Currently, ASMOF is able to lodge disputes on behalf of members as a collective matter and in doing so protect doctors from being targeted. The Ministry's argument was essentially an attempt to weaken the Union by preventing ASMOF from accessing the assistance of the Commission whilst maintaining status quo.

The substantiative dispute will be heard before the Commission in late July 2019. In the meantime ASMOF continues to fight this issue on a local level and seeks your ongoing support in doing so as we remain stronger as a united and collective front.