Unions are urging the Fair Work Commission to block the approval of a new workplace agreement covering staff who work for federal members of parliament, alleging that serious flaws in the ballot process altered the outcome.
In a statutory declaration, lodged with the FWC, the United Services Union has outlined a series of concerns raised by parliamentary employees who say they were denied a vote.
They include: workers not receiving a password to vote; other workers receiving two passwords; a requirement for a second payroll number that many did not have access to; no answer from an assistance line meant to support the ballot process; and the unprecedented timing of the vote during a busy parliamentary sitting week.
USU general secretary Graeme Kelly said that while the outcome of the ballot came down to just 15 votes, 539 eligible employees didn’t cast a ballot, with many of these people reporting that technical issues prevented them from voting.
“Following this ballot, the union was inundated with reports from parliamentary staff that they had either not received ballot papers or had not had access to a second payroll number required for the electronic voting process, denying them a say on their future pay and conditions,” Mr Kelly said.
“Many others raised concerns that this was the first time that a ballot for parliamentary staff has occurred during a busy sitting week.
“This timing is particularly suspicious as sitting weeks see Ministers, MPs and Senators bring in additional casual employees, meaning hundreds of people not normally covered by the agreement were suddenly included in the ballot.
“Given the final result came down to just 15 votes, yet many more workers than that have reported being denied a chance to cast their ballot, it makes a complete mockery of the ballot.”
The union is requesting that the FWC not approve the agreement, and instead order another ballot take place during a non-sitting week that is not marred by the technical issues of the initial vote.
“This is not an action we have taken lightly, as most employees covered by the agreement have been denied a pay rise since 2014, but we cannot allow such a fundamentally undemocratic process to go unchallenged,” Mr Kelly said.