On Friday 12 February, your union wrote to Southern IML to request that they start the Health and Safety Representative (HSR) election process. This is a critically important step to giving workers a greater say in their workplace and ensuring your continued safety at work.
What are HSRs?
HSRs are elected staff representatives that are able to enforce safety legislation at work. They are chosen by workers, for workers. Unlike your managers, HSRs only have powers and functions to represent the workers in their work group, not the company and its profit margins. HSRs have the power to issue legally binding provisional improvement notices to the company, shut down workplaces or work practices until they are made safe, and inspect and consult with other workers on company time.
HSRs have their powers, functions and protections afforded to them by the Work Health and Safety Act (WHS Act). They are legally enforceable and cannot be taken away by the company. Any attempt by the company to restrict a HSR from performing their powers and functions would be a breach of the WHS Act.
How do the elections work?
First the company and workers will need to agree on work groups. Work groups are formed by splitting the company into distinct sections and assigning a certain number of HSRs to each group. For instance, Couriers based out of Denison St could be one work group, while the lab might be another. Work groups need to be formed by agreement between workers and the company. Your union representatives will negotiate work groups on your behalf.
Once workers (the union) and the company have reached agreement on work groups there can be an election. Under the WHS Act, a majority of work group members can authorise who runs the nominations and, if necessary, the elections. This could be a delegate or your HSU organiser. If a work group authorises the company instead, they have the right to appoint a scrutineer to make sure the process is run fairly. You will only be given a vote for your work group.
Once elections have finished, newly elected HSRs should lodge a request in writing to their facility manager to attend their choice of training provider to do the five day HSR training course. Southern IML must pay for this course and any other reasonable costs, such as additional travel and accommodation costs and pay the HSR as if they were at work while they attend training, including shift and other allowances and normal rostered overtime.
What do I need to do?
At the moment, not much. The union is seeking member endorsement of our proposed work group structure. You can vote to endorse, reject or propose alternatives HERE. If endorsed this is what the union will take to the company as our starting position for negotiations.
Confused? Don’t worry!
Your HSU Organiser will continue visit sites over the next few weeks and will be focusing on explaining the HSR process to members. Additionally, if you have any questions you can get in touch with him.
The HSU will continue to send updates to members as this process progresses.
If you know someone who hasn’t yet joined the HSU, tell them to get on board today. Standing together gives us a much stronger voice in the workplace. New members can join at www.hsu.asn.au/join or call 1300 478 679.