In May 2020, concerns were raised to the United Services Union by a significant number of members regarding requests of employees in deemed Critical Roles to undergo Police and Terrorism checks through a Third Party Provider “My Verification Services” in accordance with TransGrid’s Talent Acquisition Policy.
When members went to the link on the My Verification Website “Terms and Conditions”, they were forced to agree to terms and conditions which state that neither, TransGrid or My Verification Services are liable for any loss of data. Members, having concerns regarding identity theft after uploading information such as their birth certificates, marriage certificates or passports as proof of identification contacted their delegates who brought the matter to the Officials.
Members also found that there was very little to no information provided regarding My Verification Services or how they handle personal and sensitive information. TransGrid has since provided this to the union.
TransGrid had changed the Policy in December last year however the delegates cannot recall any consultation regarding the changes made. The changes also made in 2017 without proper consultation now required existing employees to undergo Police and Terrorism checks every 3 years. Very little information has been provided as the reason for the ongoing checks and no information as to what happens if they do not comply regarding their roles and employment with TransGrid. Many employees have been long term employees some with more than 20 years with the organisation.
The Talent Acquisition Policy also states in appendix 1 Police Checks that if an employee is convicted of a crime listed and any other crime that TransGrid deems relevant they could face termination of employment. We say that this could potentially breach TransGrid’s own Code of Ethics & Conduct Policy and could also be discriminatory to some employees.
Members reported to the union that they were contacted at home on their private numbers by people claiming they were from My Verification Services seeking them to provide their personal information. Members were very distressed and upset about this and felt that TransGrid had violated their privacy at home by providing a Third Party Provider with their personal phone numbers.
The Australian Privacy Principles state that it is a responsibility on the Organisation to be able to reasonably justify to affected employees the reasons for the Collection of Personal information and in the case of sensitive information, the obligation to justify this is even higher. The Principles also state that a collection, use or disclosure would not be considered necessary where it is merely helpful, desirable or convenient. In other words, it must have a specific purpose.
Sensitive Information which includes Birth Certificates, Marriage Certificates and Police and Terrorism checks are all generally afforded a higher level of privacy protection in accordance with the Australian Privacy Principles, therefore it is incumbent on TransGrid to provide full disclosure to affected employees regarding the reasoning for the checks to be undertaken.
We say that to simply state that it is to ensure compliance as stated in the Policy is not in our view a reasonably justifiable reason.
It is also a requirement upon TransGrid to fully consult with employees regarding the requirements for collecting personal and sensitive information and to follow up with employees to ensure that they have been made fully aware of this and the reasoning for the collection of information. It is not enough to take their silence as confirmation.
If it is deemed a reasonable requirement then it is also critical that TransGrid take immediate steps to ensure that employees’ Private and Sensitive information is collected, handled and managed in a transparent and secure way through its third party provider. It is not acceptable for a third party to renege both its own and TransGrid’s obligations against lost information
Given the severity of concerns, the United Services Union formally placed this matter in dispute on the 15th May accordance with clause 35 of the Dispute Resolution Procedure contained in the TransGrid Employees Agreement 2016.
The Union met with TransGrid at a Tier 1 meeting on the 18th May 2020 however there was no resolution at this meeting and the dispute still remains open. The union has requested a further meeting with TransGrid three times since in writing however have received no response from TransGrid Management for another meeting to be set.
So far, there has been no satisfactory explanation given by TransGrid regarding the lack of consultation despite being formally requested to provide an explanation by the union in writing and through the Tier 1 discussion.
The Union has now placed the matter before the Fair Work Commission and is awaiting a hearing date.
We will keep you informed of this dispute when the matter is heard in the Fair Work Commission.
Please speak to your Union delegates Paul Jupp, Peter Rodgers and Brad Wasow if you require any further information or you can email your Officials Troy Dunne or Melissa Pond on their contact details below.
If you are not a member of the Union and wish to join, you can do so at www.usu.org.au/join or speak to your delegates or organisers.