Association Gains Important Arbitration Act Amendment (1962)
In this Rewind article from January 1962, The Civil Service Association introduced legislation to amend Part 10 of the Industrial Arbitration Act. It was accepted during Parliament after a request to amend the definition of "Government Officer".
The Civil Service Association in the dying hours of the last session of Parliament the Government introduced legislation to amend Part 10 of the industrial Arbitration Act. This action was taken following a request by The Civil Service Association for urgent amendment of the definition of “Government Officer” in view of the distinct possibility of further inroads into association membership.
In recent years, the Association has lost many members employed in Government Instrumentalities due to the inadequacy of the definition. The Act, as it stood, defined “Government Officer” in the widest possible terms and then proceeded to state certain provisos, one of which was as follows:
“Provided that the term shall not include any person who is at the commencement of this Act or at any time hereafter becomes a member of any society distinct from The Civil Service Association which is eligible or qualified to apply for registration as an industrial union under part 2 of this Act.”
This meant that if a group of officers following a similar calling is formed itself into a Society, and sought industrial recognition, the Association was powerless to prevent its registration.
In 1953, the Association endeavoured to overcome the situation by applying to the Court of Arbitration for an amendment to its Constitution. Most craft unions in Western Australia objected to the Association’s approach. In refusing the Association’s application, the then President of the Industrial Court, Mr. Justice Jackson, stated inter alia:
“I would like to add, however, that the avowed intention of the Association was, in part at least, to protect its position in regard to its existing members who could possible cease to be entitled to membership in the future if their vocations were covered by industrial unions registered under Part 2. The Association also desired to clarify the existing position in regard to certain employees of Government Instrumentalities or Boards in respect to whom it is doubtful whether they should belong to The Civil Service Association or to some other industrial union, notably the Clerks’ Union.
It seems to me that ultimate clarification of these matters can only be achieved by Parliament intervening and amending the definition of “Government Officer.” I think the Association would be well advised to contemplate some approaches in that direction, It is not, of course, for this Court to make any suggestions, as to what amendments might be necessary or desirable but, as there undoubtedly exists some confusion at the present time, I think it proper for us to indicate that clarity can only be attained by some amendment to the Act."
Shortly thereafter, members of this Association employed in Public Hospitals formed their own organisation and sought registration as an industrial union of workers under Part 2. The Association objected. In agreeing to the Society’s application, the Industrial Registrar stated:
“Because the salaries and working conditions of the members of the applicant society are integrated with those of the civil service generally, I would have no hesitation except for constitutional difficulties in saying that this new body should not be registered and that its members should join The Civil Service Association. However, I find as a fact that constitutionally The Civil Service Association cannot cover these workers and for this reason I am reluctantly forced to over-rule the objection by the Association. In arriving at this conclusion, I am fortified by a decision of His Honour, Mr Justice Jackson, given in April last on an application by the Association for an amendment of its Constitution.”
TRADE UNION COOPERATION
On this occasion the Association approached the Trade Union Industrial Council, placing before it the full facts of the matter and requesting its support in obtaining a suitable amendment to the Act. This body was prepared to see the Association’s difficulties.
Without its cooperation and the support of the Opposition in the State House, there is little doubt that the Amendment would not have taken place.
AMENDMENT GREAT IMPROVEMENT
The amendment provides for the deletion of the “wide-open” proviso mentioned above and replace it with a proviso giving the Court power to declare that persons are not Government Officers. Before the Court will consider taking this step, however, the applicant must satisfy it that he represents not less than two-thirds in number of the persons who are members of the class of persons in respect to which a declaration is sought. The Court will then not grant the application unless it is satisfied that the class of person cannot conveniently be members of The Civil Service Association.
The amendment foes a long way to ensure the preservation of the Association as an active industrial body. Our thanks are due to the Government for introducing the amendment before Parliament rose and to the Trades Union Industrial Council and Parliamentary Labor Party for their support.