Advice of Vote Came Too Late

Not being specific and detailed about the ‘where, when and how’ of voting forced a construction company to re-do the formalities and resubmit its application as the Fair Work Commission made it clear that process matters.

Taking a pragmatic approach, the employer advised the workforce of 11 in a letter that there would be a meeting to finalise the deal and vote “in about a fortnight”. This letter was followed up by a text message advising the specifics of the date and place of the vote. The trouble was, the text was sent less than seven days before the voting date.

When the approval hearing took place, the commission questioned the employer and decided that since the text message was the only time the specifics of the ‘where, when and how’ had been formally advised to the employees, this constituted the only notice of the event which the commission could take consideration of. Since it was too close to the actual day, it was not valid.

The employer had to withdraw that application, go through the seven day access period, notice of voting and filing all the paperwork again, at some little cost. It did not matter that the commission confirmed there was nothing wrong with the agreement itself, just the technical steps required by the Act leading up to the ballot had not been met.

It is likely the small size of the workforce, coupled with the union’s involvement, lulled the employer into a false sense of security about the process. But taking a pragmatic approach in these situations about the process steps is fraught and employers must be disciplined in that regard or suffer disappointment.

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