Disputes Procedures

Every award and enterprise agreement must have a clause that provides for the resolution of disputes. The dispute resolution clause will detail the step by step process for dealing with a dispute and the type of matters that can be formally disputed. If you have a dispute with your employer, you MUST read your dispute resolution clause.
You will need to make sure that issue/grievance/dispute that you have is one that you are able to pursue in terms of the dispute resolution clause of your award or enterprise agreement.

Once you have established that you can pursue your issue/grievance/dispute, you MUST follow the steps set out in the dispute resolution procedure, from beginning to end.
Many awards and agreement say that the first step in the disputes procedure is to raise the issue with your direct supervisor.

A common mistake:

Members often miss the first step. It is important that if your award or agreement requires you to, that you raise it with your supervisor even if you know that the supervisor will not be able to resolve the dispute.

The consequence:

In the event that an issue remains unresolved at a workplace level and is then referred to the Fair Work Commission to assist in the resolution of the dispute, the Commission is only able to deal with the dispute if the parties (ie the Union and the employer) have complied with all of the steps set out in the disputes procedure.

What does this mean for the dispute?

If you do not follow each step, it means going back to square one. The Commission cannot assist until such time as every step of the disputes procedure has been exhausted. Going back to square one means that the dispute process in prolonged and the issue/grievance/dispute remains unresolved for longer.

What can you do?

  1. Familiarise yourself with the disputes procedure in the award or enterprise agreement that covers you.
  2. Make sure you follow every step of your disputes procedure, beginning with the first.
  3. Keep a record of the steps you have taken and when, this may be needed as evidence down the track to show that you have complied with the disputes procedure.
  4. Keep your workplace delegate informed; they are there to assist you.
Remember: If at any stage you are unsure, speak to your workplace delegate or Union Organiser.