Working together to protect our future

It does not really seem like 12 months has passed as water under the bridge since I wished our membership a happy and safe Christmas and prosperous 2016. I hope this was indeed the case for you all.

The weather bureau is predicting a reasonably active cyclone season for the Top End, which hopefully wont come true but if there is cyclone activity, our Association has the utmost confidence in our members to perform their duties over and above and ensure community safety should adverse weather come to bear. Just remember your safety and wellbeing in the workplace is just as important as assuring the safety of others.

Weather notwithstanding, the bigger picture is of course surviving the festive season intact both from a personal health level and that of your job security. I have in past years discussed at this juncture, pitfalls that the unwary might find themselves in when enjoying the party vibe at both work and private Christmas and New Year functions. Thankfully, I have not been called upon to provide assistance to many members over the past 9 years or so at the beginning of a new year because of the effects of a good office party or private function.

It does not bear repeating that members are accountable for their actions both on and off duty and this includes when letting the hair down a bit at the office party or if youre attending a private function either out on the town or in the privacy of someones home or back yard. However, there are some further tips that recent tribunal and court records have highlighted to avoid trouble when attending these kind of events.

A recently published article in the online publication OHSAlert, in which special counsel Clayton Payne of Thynne + Macartney Lawyers addressed a number of issues that employers should consider to help employees avoid possible complaints, legal claims and complications arising out of social interaction at staff Christmas functions (and of course any other workplace social function).

Firstly, Mr Payne points out that the mix of informal interaction and alcohol at these functions can lead to complaints of sexual harassment, workers compensation claims, unlawful discrimination and bullying complaints (a non-exhaustive list of examples). Whilst this not a new concept, Mr Payne expands on the types of behaviour that could place an employee at risk of such claims to include the taking of photographs at the end of year work function for use on social media. Mr Payne has recommended that employers explicitly ban employees from taking photos at a work function for such intended use to avoid claims of bullying and harassment and other related issues.

In summary, common sense should prevail when attending work functions over the Christmas/New Year season. Enjoy yourselves when afforded the opportunity but remember you are responsible for your own actions and over the top behaviour could be seen to be a serious breach of discipline.

Looking forward to 2017, it is of course time for the NTPA to turn our attention to the commencement of negotiations for a new Consent Agreement. There has already been much background work done to prepare our log of claims for consideration by the Commissioner of Police and the NT Government. Whilst an increase in take-home pay is always nice, the reality is a tight fiscal cycle and salary increases will most likely remain modest.

That said and without giving too much away given the confidentiality of negotiations on these kinds of matters, it is our view that there is scope for significant improvements to terms and conditions of employment under which you work, particularly in the areas of family friendly work practices and equity in accessing allowances.

We will be keeping our members informed of the progress of negotiations from their commencement in February of next year. To ensure you are kept abreast of developments as they occur, I recommend you contact our office staff (Tessa and Zoey) and update your contact details

Finally, returning to the festive season theme, it is interesting to note that Worksafe Victoria has published statistics that identify November and December as being the most hazardous months of the year for workers, with 25 per cent of all workplace fatalities in that State occurring in those two months over the past 10 years (to the end of 2015).