Fair Work Commission halts planned airport work stoppages

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Planned industrial action at Australia’s airports for Monday and Tuesday has been called off after the Fair Work Commission (FWC) issued an interim order preventing staff from walking off the job.

Over the weekend, the Department of Immigration and Border Protection (DIBP), on behalf of the federal government, applied to the FWC calling for a three-month suspension to all industrial action on national security grounds.

While the FWC is yet to hand down its decision on the Department’s application, the Commission on Sunday night issued an interim order preventing the Community and Public Sector Union (CPSU) from carrying out planned work stoppages that were set down for on Monday and Tuesday.

It will hear the case on Tuesday, the CPSU said in a statement on Sunday night.

“The Department of Immigration and Border Protection made an application to the Fair Work Commission at close of business Friday, 1 April to suspend all industrial action for three months on national security grounds,” the CPSU said.

“The Fair Work Commission has not yet heard CPSU evidence responding to the Department and Borders Force’s application but has issued an interim order to suspend protected industrial action/strikes until a decision on the case is made, with a further hearing on the main application on Tuesday.

“The CPSU will continue to vigorously oppose the Department’s application and will keep you across new developments as they arise.”

The CPSU said there had been multiple exemptions in previous stop work actions to ensure national security was not compromised.

“The Department has previously been able to reach agreement with the union on more than 50 exemptions for officers whose work relates to counter-terrorism and security in similar action taken by DIBP and Border Force workers over the past 10 months,” the CPSU said.

The Department noted the Commission’s order on its website on Sunday night: “The Fair Work Commission has today issued an interim suspension order for all protected industrial action, pending the outcome of a final hearing on 5 April.”

Australian Aviation

Qantas loss of licence insurance should cover depression: pilots

March 31, 2015 – 7:49AM

Jamie Freed

Australian pilots for major airlines have loss-of-licence insurance that can pay out up to nearly $1 million in the event they are deemed medically unfit to fly, but pilots say past disputes over payouts in the case of psychiatric conditions such as depression could make them less likely to be honest about their condition.

Germanwings First Officer Andreas Lubitz, who is alleged to have purposely crashed an A320 in the French Alps last week killing all 150 on board, had reportedly been treated for depression. The crash has led to a renewed focus on the issue of pilot mental health in a profession where reporting depression can lead to a temporary grounding at best and at worst the loss of a pilot’s licence.

Australian and International Pilots Association president Nathan Safe, whose union represents Qantas and Jetstar pilots, said there was not usually any consternation about eligibility for payouts if the cause was a physical illness, but mental health issues were sometimes treated differently under the Qantas-provided policy.

“We have had issues in the past of having arguments about whether people are eligible,” he said. “It is an example of something we need to talk about. If people are worried they are not going to be paid out if they come forward with mental health issues they are perhaps more likely to stay at work, which is not what we want with people with mental health issues.”

The size of the payout depends on the age of the pilot and the insurance plan but for young pilots the Qantas insurance plan would provide nearly $1 million.

“The main point of it is to recognise if you can no longer fly you need to set yourself in a new career path,” Mr Safe said. “You might have to go back to uni and do something else.”

Qantas’s loss of licence insurance policy excludes payouts in the case of “psychosis or psychoneurosis”, in what is considered dated terminology from the 1960s and compares with more modern terms used in other policies on the market.

Insurance disputes

In 2012, Qantas pushed to replace it with “psychosis, generalised anxiety, dissociation, unintentional conversion of psychological factors to physical symptoms, phobias, obsessions and compulsions and depression” as described in the latest American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual.

In a 2013 ruling, the Fair Work Commission denied Qantas’s request to change the terminology, saying it could result in the airline excluding payouts in the case of depression, even though the airline provided evidence it had made payouts for some depression cases in the past. Sources said despite the ruling, there was at least one dispute over an insurance payout related to depression that was ongoing.

Pilots can also take out income protection insurance, although that is not paid for by their employers.

Virgin Australia Holdings reimburses pilots for the cost of licence insurance cover, either through the company or two unions that represent Virgin pilots. The Australian Federation of Air Pilots policy excludes payouts in the case of intentional self-injury, attempted suicide or drug and alcohol dependency but does not mention depression. The Virgin Independent Pilots Association, which has a fixed $810,000 payout for pilots up to age 65, also excludes intentional self-injury.

Separately, Jetstar pilots on Monday approved a new enterprise bargaining agreement including an 18-month pay freeze, with 73.6 per cent in favour and 26.4 per cent against. In December, 95 per cent of Jetstar pilots had voted against a first proposal, but changes were made that satisfied the majority of pilots.

 

The Sydney Moning Herald

Sacked public servant takes her tweet battle to Fair Work Commission

October 30, 2013 – 11:34AM

Christopher Knaus

Reporter for The Canberra Times.

"What will I do on Monday?"... asked Michaela Banerji.

Sacked public servant Michaela Banerji is taking her battle to the Fair Work Commission. Photo: Jay Cronan

A public servant sacked for posting tweets critical of her department will now take the fight over her dismissal to the Fair Work Commission.

Michaela Banerji was working in the communications area of the Department of Immigration and Citizenship when she posted several tweets on her private Twitter account, which had about 700 followers.

The tweets were critical of the government and the opposition, the department and its then spokesman, Sandi Logan, and a company contracted to run immigration detention centres.

She was dismissed by the department on September 13, with her last day on September 27.

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The government argued she had breached the Australian Public Service’s code of conduct, which states employees must avoid making “harsh or extreme” criticisms of politicians or policies.

The sacking sparked a legal battle, with Ms Banerji turning to the courts in an attempt to save her job.

But she lost three different applications to have a stay on her dismissal, the last of which was rejected in the Federal Court in late September.

That last-gasp bid in the Federal Court was designed to temporarily keep her job until her appeal could be heard in October.

Ms Banerji appeared before the Federal Court again on Wednesday.

The former public servant, who has legal training and is representing herself, said there was mutual agreement for her to discontinue her appeal.

Instead, she is taking the matter to the Fair Work Commission, where she will seek to fight against her unlawful dismissal.

A conference is expected to take place before the Commission in November.

The Canberra Times