SITREP 12/2012

March 23, 2012

In this issue:

  • 2012 Union elections
  • Baulkham Hills matrix distance – are we there yet?
  • Meal and Refreshment Allowances Update
  • Super guarantee to increase from 9% to 12%
  • O’Farrell’s war on workers  – update

2012 Union elections

Further to the ten members elected unopposed as reported in SITREP 11/2012 (see the Returning Officer’s letter confirming this), four more candidates were declared elected unopposed by the NSW Electoral Commission (NSWEC) when they were the sole remaining candidates for their offices by the deadline for withdrawal of nominations yesterday.

SCOM Office                                                                                 Member elected

Sydney Central Sub-Branch Secretary (ME1)                          Wes Smith (1 A)

Sydney Central West Sub-Branch Secretary MW2)               Leighton Drury (27 A)

Sydney North Sub-Branch Secretary (ME2)                            Stephen Cresswell (36 A)

Sydney South West Sub-Branch Secretary (MS3)                  Richard Neville (HART S/R)

The NSWEC will now conduct a postal ballot of all financial members of the Union for the three remaining contested State Committee of Management positions, as follows:

SCOM Office                                        Candidates

Senior Vice President                             John Henry (77 C), Travis Broadhurst (36 C)

Junior Vice President                             Jason Morgan (374 S/R),  Matthew Murray (10 A)

Retained Sub-Branch                             Phillip Gardner (72),  Marina Findeis (77)

The NSWEC will post your voting material to the address shown in the Union’s records on Thursday 29 March. The ballot will close at 5pm on Thursday 12 April 2012. Members are urged to notify the Union of any change of address. If you are not sure, then you can check if the Union has your current address by phoning Alison or Julie at the Union Office on 9218 3444, or by emailing

Baulkham Hills matrix distance – are we there yet?

The Department has once again been caught out verballing the Union, advising members that No. 67 Stn, Baulkham Hills is not on the matrix because the Union has not signed off on the matrix distances. Unsurprisingly, this is simply not true – it’s the Union who’s waiting for a response from the Department.

Members can see from the Department’s letter dated 29 November 2011 and our response dated 2 December 2011  that the Department is attempting to shortchange members by calculating matrix distances according to the shortest distance possible rather than the “actual distance necessarily and reasonably travelled” as provided by the Award.

If the Department had its way here, it would see members in some cases taking a much longer route, using every back street in Sydney, just because the overall distance was shorter than using major arterial motorways and highways that would cut down travel time. Members are encouraged to read both letters and see for themselves where the hold up lies.

More to follow.

Meal and Refreshment Allowances Update

This dispute returned to the Industrial Relations Commission (IRC) yesterday.

What is agreed

Independent advice obtained by the Union confirms that the incident meal and refreshment allowances are taxable, but that the overtime meal allowance payable to permanent members under subclause is not taxable. The Union also accepts that the ATO requires the allowances which are taxable to be taxed at the time of payment (ie, the full allowance can’t be paid now and the tax component paid later).

What is not agreed

The Union argues that meal and refreshment allowances should continue to be paid out of petty cash, as per clause 10.4.1 of the Permanent Award and clause 8.3.1 of the Retained Award. The Department is now arguing that a Treasury Direction against the use of petty cash overrides the Awards.  The IRC’s Justice Haylen appeared as surprised by this line of argument as we were, but invited the Department’s advocates to go away and seek further advice on that before the matter returns to the IRC on 10 April.

The Department is also arguing that the incident meal and refreshment allowances can’t be paid out of petty cash because the Station Commander will have no way of knowing how to calculate the correct rate of tax for each member. The Union argues that this can be overcome by taxing the allowances at the highest marginal rax rate of 46.5%, with any excess tax paid being returned to members with each year’s tax return.

The Department is also standing by its intention to cease payment of the overtime meal allowances from petty cash and to instead deposit the allowance (which both parties agree is not taxed) into members’ bank accounts asap after the claim has been approved. This would not occur before the next business day at the absolute earliest, and would more likely take several days to process and appear in your account. The Union is arguing the obvious, noting that it is pointless to give some an allowance to allow them to purchase their dinner 24 hours or more after the event. We have also rejected the suggestions that members should be able to just borrow the money off someone else, or carry an extra $30 on them in case they land some unexpected overtime.

Finally, the Union’s advice is that the incident and meal and refreshment allowances, which we agree are taxable, are also superable (ie, they attract an extra 9% in employer contributions to your superannuation account). Members will recall last year’s lump-sum award payments which the Department initially argued were not superable, only to concede the point (and $70,000 in additional members’ super) after continued Union pressure. While payment in this instance may take longer (we will need to engage tax consultants to seek a ruling on behalf of all members from the ATO), we expect the result to be the same.

Where to from here?

The Union advised the IRC that management was already standing over some Station Officers and Captains who had continued to observe the award and pay the allowances from petty cash. The Judge clearly indicated his view that there should be no threat of disciplinary action while this matter is sorted, but the Department refused to confirm that this would be the case. The Union therefore has no option but to take the matter into our own hands to protect our members and to make the Department’s unworkable systems actually work. Accordingly, all members are hereby instructed that:

  • all incident and overtime meal and refreshment allowance claims are to continue to be paid through petty cash;
  • for each incident meal allowance payment of $26.45, members are to be paid an after tax incident meal allowance payment of $14.15.  Tax of $12.30 is to be withheld and left in petty cash;
  • for each incident refreshment allowance payment of $13.25, members are to be paid an after tax incident refreshment payment of $7.10. Tax of $6.15 is to be withheld and left in petty cash;
  • The overtime meal allowance for permanent members is not taxable and remains at $26.45, which should be paid in full from petty cash; and
  • Every member is to record their own payments received and tax withheld on this form, which they should retain for their own records.

This instruction shall remain in place until notified otherwise by the State Secretary.

Super guarantee to increase from 9% to 12%

The passage of the superannuation and minerals resource rent tax Bills through Federal Parliament this week will deliver working Australians tens of thousands of dollars more in their retirement savings, and ensure the spoils of the mining boom are more fairly spread. Unions have campaigned long and hard to lift the super guarantee because 9% super is not enough to provide an adequate income in retirement.

Although the increase in employer funded superannuation contributions is good news, it is being phased in too slowly. The first increase of 0.25% is scheduled for 1 July 2013, and the 12% mark won’t be reached until 2020. Whether these increases survive the probable election of an Abbott Government is another question. The Liberals have form on this. The Howard Government backflipped on increasing the super guarantee to 15%, despite promising to do so prior to its election in 1996.

O’Farrell’s war on workers – update.

I will be meeting with Premier O’Farrell next Wednesday as a part of a Unions NSW delegation over the government’s latest IR changes, including massive increases in fines (up to $220,000 per day) for industrial action.

This will follow the meetings held between numerous FBEU members and officials and Government MPs over this last week to ensure they are aware of the appalling impact the Commission of Audit’s recommendations would have on frontline services in NSW. At a community meeting in Parramatta on Wednesday O’Farrell made a commitment to not implement one of the worst aspects of the report – making safe and effective minimum crewing a question of ‘managerial prerogative’ – in response to a query from one of our newly-elected officials. It’ll require all of us to hold the Premier to his promise.

Jim Casey

State Secretary



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