Your Vote’s in the E-Mail

Compass Group (Australia) Pty Ltd; Compass Group Remote Hospitality Services Pty Ltd T/A ESS Support Services Worldwide [2013] FWC 3160 (21 May 2013)

Electronic voting for enterprise agreements, as well as using the payroll system to communicate with staff about agreements, have been found by Fair Work to meet statutory agreement-making requirements.

The company has its payroll system configured to include access rights for a range of internal information and used it to notify employees about the proposed EA and related information. It included details about the NES as well as information session details and how the vote would be conducted.

The union claimed some employees didn’t get the opportunity to vote, that some managers were unable to answer questions about the agreement when asked, that the on-line voting system was deficient because there were discrepancies in the closing time details and some employees were rostered off when the voting took place.

The union argued that these, and other issues, rendered the agreement but Fair Work disagreed. Firstly, the company had 55 sites over a large area and more than 1,400 employees. This, Fair Work indicated, was a logistical challenge which the new technology available met adequately. The method itself was the normal way of communication for this company with such a widely dispersed workforce.

Secondly, Fair Work pointed out that where local managers were unable to assist, the affected employees were directed to the HR team, so no disadvantage occurred there either.

The other issues were dismissed by Fair Work as generally having no real impact on the outcome, and the Commission further dismissed any suggestion that because only roughly third of those eligible to vote, actually did so. The Commission said voting for an enterprise agreement is not compulsory, so this did not warrant Commission intervention.

This decision reinforces for employers that provided reasonable steps normally available to the employer to communicate are taken, then Fair Work will accept that process has been respected.