Claims Safety Representative unfairly selected for redundancy rejected

Claims Safety Representative unfairly selected for redundancy rejected 

The Fair Work Commission has rejected claims from a Telstra OHS representative that he was unfairly selected for redundancy due to his safety role and historical clashes with his manager. The case underlines the critical need for businesses to have sound, fair and transparent processes in place if the need arises to downsize staff.

In February 2021, the telecommunications giant decided to reduce the number of Technician roles within its Field Services team due to decreasing work on NBN assets. That decision was not challenged; however, a dispute was lodged under the company’s enterprise agreement related to the selection of an elected health and safety representative (HSR).

Telstra’s selection process is based upon an initial ranking of employees by their manager undertaking desktop assessments. Those rankings are then reviewed by a peer committee, which can alter the initial selection ratings. Following that process, a selected employee can lodge an appeal to be conducted by an independent successor, which the HSR did, without changing the outcome.

Employees can also submit applications for voluntary redundancies, but this did not compel the employer to select any volunteers over the ranking system.

The HSR was the only technician selected for redundancy from 13 team members. He claimed that his ranking was biased due to historical interpersonal conflict with his manager, his role as a safety representative, and a previous workplace injury he had sustained. As he claimed in his submission, “I am sure I am perceived by the team leader and my new area manager as a troublemaker, and the resulting ranking reflects that.”

However, Deputy President Amanda Mansini determined that the initial selection of the HSR for redundancy was a reasonable decision based on the selection criteria and that the subsequent appeal process was fair and thorough.

She could not identify any bias in the process and was particularly impressed by the evidence given by the HSR’s Manager, noting,

I considered him to be an honest witness whose evidence was unwavering in describing a fair, merit-based process which balanced (the HSR’s) skills, experience and performance with that of the others in the group of thirteen employees ranked…(The HSR’s) ranking was un-affected by unfair considerations…On the evidence before the Commission, the allegations of bias and taking into account irrelevant considerations are not made out”.

Consequently, the Deputy President resolved the dispute by upholding the decision to make the HSR redundant.

CC and Communications, Electrical, Electronic, Energy, Information, Postal, Plumbing and Allied Services Union of Australia (CEPU) v Telstra Corporation Pty Ltd t/a Telstra (C2021/1971)

For queries about redundancy processes or other employment questions, please contact Dean Cameron at Workforce Advisory Lawyers – We Know Employment Law on 1300 WAL LAW, 0417 622 178 or via email to dean.cameron@workforceadvisory.com.au

Disclaimer: This information is provided as general advice on workplace relations and employment law. It does not constitute legal advice, and it is always advisable to seek further information regarding specific workplace issues. Liability limited by a scheme approved under professional standards legislation.

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