This edition focuses on the following key issues:
- Welcome by the State President ↓
- Representation of Members ↓
- New Man in Town ↓
- PSAQ - Plans for 2002 ↓
- Proposed New Awards - Property Management and Sales ↓
- Terminating Employment - Notice Periods ↓
Welcome to PSAQ's new-look Member Update, which reflects the improved "visual identity" of the PSAQ.
The content of this update will:
- Demonstrate that the PSAQ is effectively representing its members, and
- Give you some useful tools for your working relationship with your employer.
I hope you gain some benefit from our regular Updates, and encourage you to pass any feedback to our full-time officials, Barry Gannon and Andrew Ross.
PSAQ State President
Many of our members (perhaps fortunately) are unaware just how much "member representation" (i.e. dispute resolution) the PSAQ is involved in. Because the PSAQ has determined to resolve disputes by negotiation (where possible) as opposed to litigation, a significant proportion of our success - perhaps as much as 90% - goes unreported.
This is how the PSAQ works:
- If a member raises a complaint with us about their employer, we firstly ask that member to write to us, supplying as much information as they can, and authorising us to make enquiries on the behalf.
- We then analyse the information as best we are able and, where necessary, obtain either formal or informal legal advice about the issues which have been raised.
- Once this has been done, we then write to or telephone the employer,
asking them to respond to the allegations which have been raised
This is the point at which we discover whether we are dealing with a reasonable employer, or otherwise.
- If the employer responds (rather than ignore our query, as some do) they usually raise questions or bring information to light about which we were previously unaware, and we then communicate with our member to try and establish their views on the matters the employer has raised.
- From the basis of having tried as best we can to establish the facts, we then make suggestions to either side about how we think the matter can best be resolved.
- In many cases this then leads us down the track of settling the matter.
- It is not always "plain sailing" from this point forward, but at least if we are able to communicate with both sides, there is hope of resolution.
Even though this approach usually achieves a good result for our member, the confidential nature of most settlements means that we are unable to make any public comment about the outcome.
However if the employer fails to respond to our initial queries
(or if they try to "bully" their way out of the matter)
we then need to determine whether the case is legally-winnable -
sometimes it is not!
In these situations, having taken whatever legal advice we can access (our sources are both extensive and highly- competent), our State Secretary then has the unenviable choice:
- Do we commit a (potentially) large amount of the PSAQ's time and financial resources (i.e. members' funds) to prosecute a case which is marginal at best; or
- Do we tell our member that there's nothing further we can do to assist?
It's a tough decision to be faced with!!
However we can assure our members of two things:
- If the case appears "winnable", we will pursue it; and
- We will always spend our members' money as wisely as possible.
So how about some specifics?
Last year an employer, who had earlier told the PSAQ "I will always do the right thing by my employees, unlike my competitors" was accused by three sales people, new into the Industry, of paying them nothing (at all) over a three- to six-month period.
The employer failed to respond appropriately to our queries, and so we took him to court. When he failed to appear in court, we got a judgement against him (for approximately $20,000.00), in his absence.
He then appealed the decision on the basis that "he didn't know the date of the hearing". (He did know the date - we personally served the summons.)
The court agreed to reopen the case, and again ordered him to make payment to the (by now former) employees.
In the meantime, however (between the date of the hearing and when the decision was handed down), what did the employer do?
He liquidated the Pty Ltd company and continued trading under the
same name, but as a new legal entity.
Fortunately the Government's "seen it all before" - industrial relations legislation allows us to now pursue the former employer as an individual.
We're up to the task, and "round two" is about to commence however, as you can see, sometimes there's a lot of work needed to finalise a case.
On the other hand, in January alone, we resolved a number of matters on behalf of our members which involved disputed monies in the order of $100,000.00 (in total).
Due to some good relationships established at corporate level within the Industry, these matters were all sorted out without them even getting near the courts.
Such successes for our members are an example of some very effective industrial relations strategies at work, and came about as the result of good long-term behind-the-scenes groundwork which has been done by the PSAQ.Return to Top ↑
In the past, all day-to-day work for the PSAQ has been undertaken by just two officials - Barry Gannon and Andrew Ross - who (literally) had responsibility for the whole State - too much for two people. The PSAQ's newly-created Field Officer role will help in improving our service in the State's regional areas.
Our new Field Officer has already gathered information about and analysed the employment profile of most real estate offices in his area, and will be pro-actively targeting, in the first instance, those offices who appear not to be complying with the requirements of the Award.
He will also work hard to boost Membership numbers for this region.
It is our hope that, if the Field Officer trial works out well, we will be able to appoint Field Officers in other regional and city-based locations.
If any of our members in or near the Sunshine Coast would like assistance from the PSAQ, please contact the PSAQ office on 07 3841 6977 to arrange a meeting with the Sunshine Coast Field Officer.Return to Top ↑
The PSAQ is pleased to be able to report that in 2001 we saw a very substantial improvement in three key areas:
- Percentage of Award Compliance within the Industry and, as a consequence;
This has enabled the PSAQ to do a number of things which have been desperately needed for some time:
- Employ a part-time clerical assistant to undertake a number of administrative roles;
- Commence a "branding" programme to establish a clear "visual identity" for the PSAQ - e.g. logo, letterheads, newsletter, business cards, etc., which all have a standardised theme; and
- Upgrade some office and computer equipment.
The above initiatives form a platform for 2002, which should see the introduction of two brand-new Awards to the Industry, a more streamlined process for dispute-resolution and more effective on-line access to information about industrial relations matters in this Industry.
Probably the most pressing need in the Industry is for the PSAQ to have people "on the ground" to assist its members, and to work with employees and employers alike in Award compliance. The PSAQ has just employed a part-time Field Officer, as a "pilot" programme. He will commence work on the Sunshine Coast.
In 2002 the introduction of the Field Officer role/s, together with the increased level of awareness of the PSAQ generated by other marketing initiatives, will further improve the PSAQ's ability to effectively service the Industry.
Thanks for your support of the PSAQ. We commit ourselves to you to continue effective representation of real estate sales people and property managers.Return to Top ↑
The PSAQ has reported to its Members for some time now on its intention to introduce a first time-ever Award for Property Managers.
The proposed Property Management Award has been in the design and negotiation stage for approximately two years, and we are pleased to report that a formal Application for its introduction was recently lodged with the Industrial Commission.
The Award will address wage levels, employment of juniors, hours of work, casual and part-time employment, and allowances (for car and mobile phone). Once we have a formal response from the Industrial Commission, we'll be able to provide our members with more detail.
Property Managers will be removed from the coverage of the Property Sales Award, and so it was necessary to amendment it.
There are no significant policy changes in the proposed new Sales Award, however there has been a lot of attention paid to administrative detail.
One important issue, however, is that we have introduced clearer guidelines about when commission becomes payable to the employee by the employer.
It's now up to the Industrial Commission to accept our proposals in their current form, or to direct us where to go from here. We'll keep you posted.Return to Top ↑
Last Member Update we looked at what to do prior to termination of employment, in order to protect your commission.
You also need to observe the required Notice Periods, so that your employer can't withhold monies (as compensation) from your commission.
Most sales people are paid commission in some form, and are often surprised to be told they have to "give notice". After all, if you want to leave, you just leave, don't you?
In the past, that's certainly how it was - but things have changed.
Regardless of how you're paid, when it comes to termination of
employment, there are certain rules which must be followed.
To put this issue in perspective, the PSAQ would ask the following questions:
- Question 1.
Do you believe that your ability to earn an income should be able to be suddenly removed from you?
- Question 2.
In the same vein, should a business owner suddenly be faced with difficulty in providing the staff needed to generate income for his or her business?
Notice periods exist to ensure that either party has time to make the adjustments brought about by their changed circumstances.
Employment legislation prescribes compensation for both employee and employer - depending on who disadvantages the other - if notice periods aren't followed.
Notice periods are based on length of service, and are clearly set out in the Award (a copy is available from the PSAQ web site).
Also on the web site is a Letter of Termination for employees to use in giving notice to their employer, together with a separate Mutual Agreement to Waive Notice Period.
Often the employee and employer do agree to waive notice periods - the important thing, in order to minimise disputes, is to make sure that such an agreement is in writing.
Over the past few months, numbers of our members have found themselves embroiled in unnecessarily-bitter arguments over this issue while others, having taken heed of our advice, have had a relatively harmonious outcome.
If you're thinking of terminating your current employment, why not make it as painless as possible?
Give the employer the appropriate notice and/or put any agreement to waive the notice period in writing.Return to Top ↑