Before Kate Jenkins from the AHRC was appointed to conduct an independent inquiry, USU/ASU delegates were taking the lead in Canberra on urgent change that is needed to support Members of Parliament Staffers (MOP(S)).
USU/ASU delegates arranged a meeting with Stephanie Forster (Department of PM & Cabinet) on 2 March 2021, to discuss complaints procedures under review. The outcome of discussions lead to what has become known as the “Interim Policy” for handling complaints from MOP(S) about sexual harassment and bullying.
The government’s Interim Policy may not go far enough to address necessary changes to ensure procedural fairness when MOP(S) are seeking avenues to resolve complaints effectively.
Delegates also attended the most recent WHS Committee meeting on 26 February 2021, chaired by Simon Birmingham (Special Minister of State – SMOS) to argue that an independent adjudicator for complaints was urgently needed.
Members need an independent umpire USU/ASU members need stronger entitlements in their EBA to ensure complaints can be dealt with by an independent umpire.
Through bargaining, the USU/ASU is seeking to ensure that the Fair Work Commission has a stronger ability to hear complaints about sexual harassment and bullying in the workplace.
Historically, Ministerial & Parliamentary Services (M&PS) have been tasked with accepting and responding to complaints.
This is a problem because MOP(S) are employed directly by their MP – the department does not have a meaningful ability to resolve concerns when they are contacted. USU/ASU members have told their union about frequent instances of complaints being referred back to complainants and sometimes to the respondent to a complaint.
The USU/ASU does not believe that the department is equipped to deal with disputes and complaints as serious as sexual harassment and bullying, and their procedures cannot enforce standards in the workplace.
Since November 2020 when the USU/ASU sought orders from the Fair Work Commission to recommence bargaining, there have been 3 meetings.
USU/ASU delegates and officers have worked hard to present detailed claims to the department and given M&PS representatives every opportunity to ask questions about the benefits of each USU/ASU claim.
The next meeting with the department will be on 1 April 2021 when the Union expects to hear the department’s responses to all MOP(S) claims. Watch this space for future updates.
If you wish to find out more please contact USU Organiser Mick Jones on email@example.com