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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1999 Week 11 Hansard (20 October) . . Page.. 3387 ..

MS CARNELL (continuing):

Relations Commission did not object to that in any way. Pay was withheld in accordance with the provisions of the Act, but the department did not just say, "Oops, we're not going to pay you".

What happened was that, in total, 1,890 working hours were lost as a result of the industrial action. It is my understanding that the bursars were sent a letter warning them, and they were warned verbally, that should they proceed with the industrial action their pay would be withheld. That is the absolute right of an employer if an employee does not do the job that they are paid to do. Similarly, the bursars had every right to withhold particular functions or not to perform particular functions. Every opportunity was afforded to the bursars, but they decided, as is their democratic right, to engage in industrial action, with full knowledge of the consequences. They had been told, both verbally and in a letter, at least on my advice, that their pay would be docked if they went ahead with industrial action.

Mr Berry: They were doing their core duties.

MS CARNELL: Remember, that under section 4(1)(b) - - -

Mr Berry: They were doing their core duties.

MR TEMPORARY DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Hird): Order! Mr Berry, you will have the right of reply at the conclusion of the debate. The Chief Minister has the call.

MS CARNELL: Section 4(1)(b) defines industrial action as including any ban, limitation or restriction on the performance of work. Mr Stefaniak put on the record this morning exactly what the Act says, but that is not what the bursars were doing. Heavens, they were outside the Assembly for a very large percentage of the time. Obviously, they were not at work. They were not doing the job that they were paid to do.

I understand that an offer now is on the table for the bursars. It is being considered by employees and the unions, and I think things are progressing well. Mr Berry somehow seemed to say this morning that because the Government had put an offer on the table to the bursars it meant that somehow we were wrong and they were right, and therefore we should pay them.

The initial ambit claim of the bursars is not the offer that has been put on the table. What has happened, as happens most of the time in these sorts of arrangements, is that the bursars put a set of requests or demands on the table. They have been negotiated and a position somewhere in between the two has been reached. That would tend to indicate, on Mr Berry's argument, that the bursars were a bit wrong and the Government was a bit wrong. Or were we both a bit right? Certainly, there is no right or wrong on either side in terms of the offers that are on the table.

I come back to the absolute core issue here. There is legislation and advice from the Government Solicitor that is not equivocal in any way. We have seen enough legal advice in this place to know that lawyers are very capable of equivocal advice. They are very capable of putting "may's" and "might be's" and all sorts of things in legal advice.

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