Representation of Members

Many of our members (perhaps fortunately) are unaware just how much "member representation" (i.e. dispute resolution) the PSAQ is involved in. Because the PSAQ has determined to resolve disputes by negotiation (where possible) as opposed to litigation, a significant proportion of our success - perhaps as much as 90% - goes unreported.

This is how the PSAQ works:

  • If a member raises a complaint with us about their employer, we firstly ask that member to write to us, supplying as much information as they can, and authorising us to make enquiries on the behalf.
  • We then analyse the information as best we are able and, where necessary, obtain either formal or informal legal advice about the issues which have been raised.
  • Once this has been done, we then write to or telephone the employer, asking them to respond to the allegations which have been raised against them.
    This is the point at which we discover whether we are dealing with a reasonable employer, or otherwise.
  • If the employer responds (rather than ignore our query, as some do) they usually raise questions or bring information to light about which we were previously unaware, and we then communicate with our member to try and establish their views on the matters the employer has raised.
  • From the basis of having tried as best we can to establish the facts, we then make suggestions to either side about how we think the matter can best be resolved.
  • In many cases this then leads us down the track of settling the matter.
  • It is not always "plain sailing" from this point forward, but at least if we are able to communicate with both sides, there is hope of resolution.

Even though this approach usually achieves a good result for our member, the confidential nature of most settlements means that we are unable to make any public comment about the outcome.

However if the employer fails to respond to our initial queries (or if they try to "bully" their way out of the matter) we then need to determine whether the case is legally-winnable - sometimes it is not!
In these situations, having taken whatever legal advice we can access (our sources are both extensive and highly- competent), our State Secretary then has the unenviable choice:

  • Do we commit a (potentially) large amount of the PSAQ's time and financial resources (i.e. members' funds) to prosecute a case which is marginal at best; or
  • Do we tell our member that there's nothing further we can do to assist?

It's a tough decision to be faced with!!

However we can assure our members of two things:

  • If the case appears "winnable", we will pursue it; and
  • We will always spend our members' money as wisely as possible.

So how about some specifics?

Last year an employer, who had earlier told the PSAQ "I will always do the right thing by my employees, unlike my competitors" was accused by three sales people, new into the Industry, of paying them nothing (at all) over a three- to six-month period.

The employer failed to respond appropriately to our queries, and so we took him to court. When he failed to appear in court, we got a judgement against him (for approximately $20,000.00), in his absence.

He then appealed the decision on the basis that "he didn't know the date of the hearing". (He did know the date - we personally served the summons.)

The court agreed to reopen the case, and again ordered him to make payment to the (by now former) employees.

In the meantime, however (between the date of the hearing and when the decision was handed down), what did the employer do?

He liquidated the Pty Ltd company and continued trading under the same name, but as a new legal entity.
Fortunately the Government's "seen it all before" - industrial relations legislation allows us to now pursue the former employer as an individual.

We're up to the task, and "round two" is about to commence however, as you can see, sometimes there's a lot of work needed to finalise a case.

On the other hand, in January alone, we resolved a number of matters on behalf of our members which involved disputed monies in the order of $100,000.00 (in total).

Due to some good relationships established at corporate level within the Industry, these matters were all sorted out without them even getting near the courts.

Such successes for our members are an example of some very effective industrial relations strategies at work, and came about as the result of good long-term behind-the-scenes groundwork which has been done by the PSAQ.

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