2nd March, 2023
St. John Members – Protected Industrial Action FAQ’s
Following on from members voting emphatically to take part in industrial action the Victorian Ambulance Union Incorporated (VAU) has formally notified St John Ambulance of our intention to take protected industrial actions. The actions have been notified to commence at 0500 on 6 March 2023 and are indefinite. Those actions are:
FAQs – further details about your right to take part in the protected industrial action
1. Can I lose my job for taking part in the Protected Industrial Action?
No. Your employment is protected whilst taking the listed actions. The FWC has approved the actions listed above for members to further their claims with respect to a proposed Enterprise Agreement.
2. Why are there only 5 actions when we voted on 13?
Many members would not have participated in industrial action (IA) before. The VAU have started by nominating some of the easier to do and most popular actions. This will ensure maximum participation from eligible members. In addition, the message that members send in the beginning stages can spur an employer to come back to the bargaining table. The other actions will be added in stages.
3. Who can participate in the Protected Industrial Action?
If you are a VAU member, nominated the VAU as your bargaining representative and were eligible to vote in the protected action ballot (regardless of whether you voted yes to particular actions or not), you have the right to participate in any or all of the protected actions listed above. As it is protected, St John cannot target you for taking part in the actions notified.
4. Will employees be deducted pay for taking part in industrial action?
Currently, members can only be deducted pay for engaging in the protected action of stopping work for 5 minutes to write enterprise bargaining campaign messages on the outside of a St John vehicle (as this is a stoppage of work, you are not performing duties and therefore no obligation of payment expected). The other actions are partial work bans (i.e., the actions still involve performing work and/or the refusal to perform additional work). For St John to deduct pay for taking part in partial work bans, section 471(1) of the Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth)requires that they have to give an employee written notice, stating that because of the partial work ban, the employee’s payments will be reduced by a proportion. A calculation supplied by the FWC must be applied.
To date neither AV, NPT nor RFDS have engaged in deduction of pay for partial work bans during protected industrial action. St John will make history as the first if they do so, which the VAU will ensure the public are aware of in media releases.
The other option that St John have is to refuse to accept partial performance of work. As employees would be locked out and not performing work, employees would not be entitled to payment. For St John to do this, section 471(4) of the Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth) requires that they have to give notice to the employee that they will not accept partial performance and will not make payment until the employee resumes full duties.
5. Will non-members be docked pay?
The VAU have received questions from members in relation to taking protected IA with other employees who are not entitled to take the protected industrial actions. Members and non-members are concerned that they will be docked pay. The VAU has given St John the required notice of industrial action, of three working days as required by the Fair Work Act. Therefore, St John should have put a plan in place to mitigate the effects of protected action, and this includes ensuring employees not entitled to take part in the protected industrial actions can continue working while industrial action is taken.
6. Shall I inform ESTA or St John communications that I am engaging in industrial action?
Although there is no requirement to notify your employer that you are engaging in protected industrial action on the day (as they have already been notified by the VAU that the listed members can and may take part), it is advisable to. NPT and RFDS members who have previously taken action reported it was easier to take protected industrial action once ESTA or their employer knew. Once they knew, it is unquestionable that you are engaging in protected action. It also assists with job planning, putting the onus back on the employer to mitigate the effects of the protected industrial action. Log on, notify your dispatchers of the actions you intend to take including the 5-minute stoppage to chalk, then you will be ready to commence work.
7. What happens if I have notified of an action but then for whatever reason do not take the protected action?
Nothing happens. For example, you have notified at the beginning of your Ambulance Victoria shift that you will be returning to branch for echo. You end up near the beach for echo, the sun is out, and you and your crew member decide you would prefer to eat there then travel back to branch. Notify your dispatcher you will not be returning to branch and eating where you are. Keep a record of that.
The VAU will provide a printable form if St John notify, for you to keep your own record of actions. This is particularly useful for noting full stoppages of work (e.g., the 5 minutes to chalk, in which St John can dock 5 minutes of pay) so that you can audit your payslip.
8. Will the actions have financial or health and safety concerns?
The VAU has purposely chosen actions that still allow our members to perform their important essential roles (as the actions are nearly all partial work bans). For this reason, there will be a small financial impact on St John and a small financial impact on the person partaking, for potential deductions. The actions send a loud message to St John that you will not accept their dismal offer. They also have an effect of informing the public about the wages and conditions you endure in ‘service’ of the community.
9. Can new members participate in the current notified actions if they weren’t an eligible member at the time of the vote?
No, they cannot. If new members wish to nominate the VAU as their bargaining representative, they can still do so. We will reissue the bulletin with the attached form. However, they will have to wait until we notify for a second round of IA, which rolls on from the first, then we can add them to the list of names provided to the FWC.
10. Can existing members participate in the current notified actions if they weren’t an eligible member (returned their nomination form and email) at the time of the vote?
No, they cannot. Only those who nominated correctly (form and email) and received a link to vote in the PABO can participate in this round of IA. If existing members wish to nominate the VAU as their bargaining representative, they can still do so. We will reissue the bulletin with the attached form. However, they will have to wait until we notify for a second round of IA, which rolls on from the first, then we can add them to the list of names provided to the FWC.
11. My employer says the actions finish after 21 days, is this true?
No. This is not true. The VAU and its employees have up to 30 days to commence each action that was approved. Once each action has commenced, there is no limit to how many times it can be notified, or how long each period of industrial action can last, as long as it is a protected action and properly notified.
12. Do I have to take part in industrial action because I voted?
No, you can choose to take part in none, some, or all of the actions. The VAU urge you to take part in all the protected actions. Improvements to wages and conditions only happen when members fight hard for their claims and resist employers attempts to scare them into accepting below par Agreements.