Court Finds DCS Breached the Enterprise Agreement by Failing to Consult About Privatisation of the ARC

30 April 2019

The Deputy President of the South Australian Employment Tribunal today handed down his decision on the PSA’s case in relation to consultation about the implementation of the State Government’s decision to privatise the Adelaide Remand Centre (ARC).

Following a three day trial, the Court has found the Department for Correctional Services failed to consult as required by the South Australian Modern Public Sector Enterprise Agreement: Salaried 2017 about a number of issues relating to the implementation of the privatisation of the ARC.

The Judge further found that the Department’s failure to comply with the Enterprise Agreement is ongoing. The Judge is considering issuing orders ensuring consultation.

This decision follows numerous pre-trial hearings and interim orders since the dispute was officially lodged last year up to when the trial finally began proceedings in the South Australian Employment Court on Wednesday 10 April 2019.

Issues in our case were further compounded when the Government announced it had signed a contract with private provider Serco the morning of a critical pre-trial hearing. Even with this pre-emptive move by the Government, the Court has found that DCS is still in breach about matters arising from the awarding of the private contract.

Speaking to the media today, PSA General Secretary Nev Kitchin said “The decision vindicates our expectation that the government is required to consult with employees and the PSA on decisions that clearly affect their safety, their employment arrangements, and future – the government has shown complete disrespect for the corrections workforce.”

Today’s court decision confirms that the Chief Executive and his executive team have breached the Enterprise Agreement and failed their obligation to genuine consultation with staff enshrined in that document.

Members have long held the view that the leadership of Chief Executive David Brown and his executive team are failing the Department. Members’ views were evidenced by the unanimous vote of no confidence in the Chief Executive at meetings held by Corrections Members late last year.

The PSA wrote to the Minister for Correctional Services, the Hon. Corey Wingard, MP on 21 December 2018 (here) outlining the PSA’s concerns about the decisions his department was making under the current leadership. The Minister has chosen so far to not respond in any meaningful way to members’ genuine concerns.

What happens in the legal case now?
The Court will issue orders requiring consultation following submissions from both parties. The Court’s decision proposes orders which will require the department to enter into immediate consultation.

An earlier Government application to appeal interim orders (here – in particular par. 73 and 74) issued on Friday 5 April 2019 remains to be heard, as well as decisions on disclosure of documentation.

Today’s court decision reaffirms PSA members’ right to access documentation which is relevant to the implementation of the privatisation. This is documentation the Government has been sparing no expense in keeping hidden from members and the public.

Further information will be provided as the next steps progress.