The Victorian Government recently slashed a promised $8 million grant to the national information and communications technology research centre (NICTA), wiping out 80% of its budget.1 As a result, the organisation was forced to close its Melbourne research operations and reduce staff at its Parkville laboratory from 91 to 15.2
In that process, NICTA issued retrenchment notices to most of the Melbourne staff, many of whom had been recruited only recently to work on key research projects. Some had given up good jobs overseas and relocated their families to Australia in the reasonable expectation that they would be working at NICTA for some time to help advance Australia's technological leadership.
Rose & Barton Australia was asked to represent a group of 25 of the 76 employees who had been retrenched.3 NICTA had offered their staff only the absolute bare minimum under the Fair Work Act. This meant that some staff, including those who had only recently relocated from overseas, got nothing at all, having not yet completed a full year of service. Others were offered only a few weeks' pay to compensate them for the sudden loss of their livelihoods. The Fair Work Act requires employers to provide redeployment opportunities within the business wherever possible, but due to the funding black hole, NICTA's hands were effectively tied.
Colin Rose, Founder of Rose and Barton and the firm's industrial relations specialist, arranged a Fair Work Australia hearing and was due to represent the staff there on March 12. However, this turned out not to be necessary. Engaging with NICTA to review the situation and to secure a fairer settlement for the staff affected, he managed to negotiate a successful settlement within days of taking on the case. Staff whose retrenchment packages had been zero will now be obtaining ex gratia payments and others will receive payments in excess of their minimum statutory entitlements.
The importance of good industrial relations cannot be underestimated. In good times, well-negotiated EBAs ensure that morale and performance are maintained; in times of crisis, well-managed industrial relations ensure that tough decisions are made fairly and can be implemented without damaging the reputation and credibility the organisation. It is quite extraordinary that so many large and mid-size companies do not have staff that are trained in industrial relations.
About Rose & Barton Australia:
We help our clients to achieve their objectives. Because success is negotiated, Rose & Barton provides skills training, consulting, one-on-one coaching and advanced negotiation support to companies, government organisations, unions and individuals.
Rose & Barton specialise in challenging negotiations, such as complex or high-stakes transactions, industrial relations, major procurement, negotiations involving monopolies or other power imbalances and long-running disputes. We are particularly strong in the pharmaceutical, government, defence, retail and banking sectors, where long-term relationships are important and even small improvements can have a large impact on overall deal values.
If your organisation would bene?t from assistance with an important negotiation, the professional team at Rose & Barton can help. Operating since 1983, that's all we do. Find out more on our website at www.roseandbarton.com.au
1"Bionic ear inventor Graeme Clark
slams sackings at NICTA", Bridie Smith, The Age, Feb. 26,
2"Would you make Einstein redundant?", editorial, The Age, Feb. 27, 2014 (http://www.theage.com.au/comment/the-age-editorial/would-you-make-einstein-redundant-20140226-33isq.html)
3"NICTA lab staff claim sackings breached the law", Bridie Smith, The Age, Feb. 27, 2014 (http://www.theage.com.au/technology/sci-tech/nicta-lab-staff-claim-sackings-breached-the-law-20140226-33ife.html)
The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.