WACOSS Update # 3 on Implementing the FWA Equal Remuneration Order
This is the third WACOSS update on progress with implementation of the Fair Work Australia (FWA) Equal Remuneration Order (ERO) for community service workers covered by the Federal SCHCDS Award
This update covers supplementary funding for service providers who are contracted directly by the Commonwealth. As we understand it, negotiations between the Commonwealth and WA Governments over supplementation of jointly funded programs (e.g. National Partnership Agreements) have not been resolved. We will continue our advocacy for speedy resolution of the Commonwealths approach to providing remuneration for joint-funded programs, as we are aware that all organisations covered by the SCHCDS Award were obliged to begin paying staff at the new Award rates as of 1st December – irrespective of their funding source or whether or not they have received supplementation.
Letters of Offer
WACOSS has been advised that all WA service providers with Commonwealth-direct funding should have received a letter from each of their Commonwealth funding agencies by now. If you have a service contract for one of the Commonwealth programs on the list of in-scope programs (see the link below) and have not received a letter of offer or a letter of information by now please get in touch with us
In-scope Commonwealth Programs:
If you have any other Commonwealth contracts that are not on this list and you have staff who are on the SCHCDS Award, please let us know.I
Frequently Asked Questions
FaHCSIA have responded to some of the questions raised at our recent WACOSS/CEWA forum on the ERO and the letters from ACOSS and WACOSS to the Minister by creating a new FAQ page on the FaHCSIA website at:
WACOSS encourages community service organisations to follow this link and read the advice carefully. WACOSS will continue to follow up with other questions from our members and expect to see further answers online soon – so it may be worthwhile checking the site regularly.
Please get in touch if you have questions that have not been answered, or are uncertain of the meaning of the answers provided. We have discussed these issues in detail and can provide some assistance with their interpretation.
Above Award payments, supplementation disputes and reviews
For organisations currently paying staff above award rates and/or those that have a collective agreement that differs from the SCHCDS Award levels and conditions, there is some important information you must be aware of before deciding whether to accept or request a review of a funding offer.
If an organisations is paying above award and accepts a supplementary funding offer, it is able to absorb supplementation without passing on further wage increases and/or use the supplementation to meet other on-costs including leave entitlements (as explained in the FAQ ).
Our current understanding of the approach for an organisation that disputes an offer and requests a review is very different to supplementary funding offers – hence organisations that seek a review may find their eligibility to receive and make use of supplementation may effectively change.
The Commonwealth approach to reviewing offers of supplementary funding will be based on what they describe as ‘actual costs’. There is a significant risk that organisations paying above award rates, that dispute that their supplementary funding offer is sufficient, may receiving a reduced or no offer of supplementation.
The Commonwealth sees that its obligation under the equal remuneration order is to pay the gap between staff wages prior to the decision and the new SCHCDS Award levels. This means that if you are paying above award wages and ask for a review of your supplementary funding offer, they will only consider providing whatever additional money is required to meet the gap between the wages you were paying prior to December 1st and those you need to pay to meet the new Award level.
In other words, if you were paying above the Award level before December 1st such that the new Award level is equal to or lower than what you are paying your staff - you may not be offered any supplementation.
FaHCSIA has confirmed this in the following written response to questions from the sector:
If an organisation chooses to go through the review process, then they are suggesting that the supplementation is inadequate as it does not cover their actual costs. By entering into the review process the organisation is rejecting the initial offer based on broad percentages, and has chosen to go through an individual application process based on actual costs. The review process aims to establish the government’s share of the actual cost to the organisation of implementing the ERO. When the actual cost is greater than the original supplementation offered, they will have increased their supplementation offer. Conversely, when the actual cost is lower than the supplementation offer then their offer would be reduced to what the actual cost of the implementing the ERO is; it is possible that the review process could result in an offer being reduced down to zero.
WACOSS has conversely argued that a review should consider the level of funding provided by the Commonwealth for wages compared to the new costs associated with the ERO, not the amount currently being paid, as many employers in WA are subsidising funding contracts and using others funds raised, or additional funding provided by the State Government in anticipation of the ERO. This is not the approach the Commonwealth is proposing to use.
Please get in touch with us if you require further clarification of this advice.
WACOSS / Peaks Questionnaire
A number of our members have contacted us and their sector Peak organisations to raise questions. While we have been able to obtain further information and secure some changes to the implementation process, it is not clear how widespread some of the problems and concerns are.
WACOSS, together with a number of peak bodies is circulating a quick questionnaire with built in checklists and advice for the sector.
It includes the key questions that community service organisations need to answer for themselves to decide how to respond to the ERO. It also provide links at the end to allow community service organisations to follow up any questions, and an opportunity to be contacted for further support.
This data will help us better understand the needs of the sector, and stepping through the questions should also help community service organisations to ensure that they have the answers and support needed to respond to the ERO.
WACOSS Reception (08) 9420 7222
Note that our office will be closed between 22nd December and 2nd January. While staff will be taking leave at different times over the rest of the holiday period, there should always be someone able to respond to your inquiry.
WA Social and Community Services Providers information ( FACSHIA)
Average SACS wage component percentages for eligible Commonwealth Programs
Social and Community Services Pay Equity Special Account Bill 2012
A042 - WACOSS SACS Award wage increases 06 06 12
WACOSS / CEWA Forum Presentations -
Simon Bibby, Senior Industrial Relations Consultant, FWA CCI Presentation Final 021112.pdf
Chris Twomey, Director Social Policy, WACOSS FWA update for CEWA forum Nov2012.pdf
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