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Late ballots block council staff industrial action

A UNION representing staff at the Derwent Valley Council will apply to Fair Work Australia for another vote on protected industrial action after a recent ballot was declared to have failed to reach the minimum number of votes required.

The Australian Electoral Commission said the majority of the votes cast were in favour of taking industrial action against the council, but not enough votes had been received overall. The Australian Services Union says this was because a parcel of votes sent by staff of the Valley Children’s Centre had taken more than a week to arrive.

Sent via Express Post from the New Norfolk Post Office on July 23, the missing votes were received by the Electoral Commission at 8am today (Tuesday), several days after the close of the poll. “Had they arrived in time for the count, we expect the ballot reserving the right to take action would have received overwhelming support,” a union spokesperson said.

Union members are in dispute with the council over pay and conditions in the negotiations for a new workplace agreement. The union says the result of the ballot sends a clear message to the council and an application would be made for another ballot to ensure members had their voices heard.

The AEU said there were 45 employees eligible to vote and 24 ballots were returned. Five of those were rejected, leaving 19 (or 42%) to be counted. This meant the required numbers of voters (50%) was not achieved, although the majority of votes cast had been in favour of action being taken.

Of the 19 votes counted, 16 were in favour of taking industrial action against the council, while two opposed the proposal and one vote was informal. The union says it has sought more information about why five votes had been rejected, as that would have made the difference in reaching the 50% participation rate required.

“What this vote outcome does show is that at least 89% of voters were supportive of taking action if we are unable to reach a satisfactory outcome in relation to the overall offer. They are strong numbers and should have [the] council on notice regardless,” the union spokesperson said.

“Our intention is to apply to Fair Work to conduct another ballot and ensure members’ votes can be captured. We have written to [the] council’s management and asked them to consider the outcome as it stands and the release of the most recent Hobart Consumer Price Index, urging them to improve the offer and resolve these negotiations.”

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