Written by Workforce chief journalist Gerard May.
EXCLUSIVE: United Voice WA has claimed Wilson Security Pty Ltd owes hundreds of workers thousands of dollars after it wrongly placed security guards who started employment after mid-2014 onto a Work Choices enterprise agreement (EA) that did not guarantee overtime penalty rates.
The union is supporting two Wilson Security workers who have applied to terminate the EA at the Fair Work Commission (FWC).
United Voice WA assistant secretary Pat O’Donnell told Workforce: “This is another shocking example of an employer maximising profits at the expense of workers.”
Wilson Security told Workforce it was “resisting any attempt” to have the EA terminated because the “overwhelming majority” of workers supported its flexibility.
There are no trade off clauses in Work Choices EA: Union
United Voice has accused the employer of resisting attempts to terminate its Wilson Security – Western Australia Collective Agreement 2009 to avoid paying overtime penalty rates.
The union said workers can be paid overtime rates under the EA but none were because under its clause 16.2 and 16.4 workers could “volunteer” to do extra work at ordinary pay rates.
The union said the EA lacked trade-off clauses providing workers other benefits to offset the volunteer work clause.
It acknowledged Wilson Security could pay employees under a Work Choices era EA. But it says after the company transferred the security business to a new entity on March 30, 2014, it was required, but had failed, to pay award overtime rates to new workers employed from then on.
On December 19, 2016, Wilson Security applied to the FWC under the Fair Work Act’s s319 for the “non-transferring” employees (the workers employed after March 30, 2014) to be covered by the EA.
United Voice said if Wilson’s application succeeded the company would avoid having to pay the non-transferring workers award pay rates from the FWC order. But the union said it would have to backpay them the money they didn’t get for not being on the award rate between the date of the FWC order and March 30, 2014.
As at Jan 20, 2017, United Voice said 238 of Wilson Security’s 578 employees were non-transferring workers who should have been paid modern award rates since March 30, 2014.
It said the amount owed to each of the 238 employees varied, but some were owed thousands of dollars.
Wilson Security says its EA maximises employee income
On February 3, the FWC dismissed Wilson Security’s objection to United Voice’s application to be heard as a full participant on the termination and s319 applications.
The FWC directed Wilson Security to provide a copy of the three applications to its employees and advise them if they wished to make a submission by February 10.
Wilson Security said its overtime arrangements benefitted workers.
In a statement to Workforce it said: “We have in place a legally compliant enterprise agreement for our WA workforce that delivers overtime flexibility and which maximises the income of our employees.
“The company will be continuing to apply these beneficial overtime arrangements within its WA workforce.
“Given the benefits our enterprise agreement delivers to our employees and the company, we will be resisting any attempt to have our agreement terminated.
“The overwhelming majority of our workforce has been vocal in its desire to see the agreement maintained, along with the flexibility it delivers.
“Out of the many hundreds of employees we have in Western Australia, only two have made an application to terminate our enterprise agreement.
“It is disappointing that United Voice has chosen to support the views of two employees over the strongly held preferences of several hundred of our employees.
“If our enterprise agreement is terminated our employees will be worse off.
“We hope that United Voice will reconsider its position.”
Wilson blatantly disregards minimum standards’: United Voice
“This is another shocking example of an employer maximising profits at the expense of workers,” United Voice’s O’Donnell told Workforce.
“The behaviour from Wilson Security undermines the award safety net and enables them to have an unfair advantage over those companies that pay award wages.
“Trying to move workers onto a Work Choices era agreement well past its nominal expiry date shows a blatant disregard for the minimum standards workers across the country rely on,” he said.
United Voice noted Wilson Security is engaged by large companies in WA including Woolworths, National Australia Bank, Australian Tax Office, Coles and Woodside Energy.
“Companies not wanting to associate themselves with contractors that have dubious employment practices need to do more to ensure that their contractors are meeting current minimum standards,” O’Donnell said.
(This story first ran in Workforce 20435, 10 February, 2017)
Workforce is Australia’s longest-running weekly and daily industrial relations news & analysis service. Going strong since 1974, this independent news service delivers detailed news updates to IR and HR professionals nationally – straight into their inbox.
For a FREE TRIAL, click here.