Bulletin – What does the “direction to take leave “ (EBA clause 30.2) mean?
Coming up towards Christmas, the annual pressure on reducing Annual Leave entitlements rears its head again, trying to reduce Telstra’s liability on these entitlements. Forcing a shut-down means staff may be directed to take some of their Annual Leave credits at a time when they may not want to.
The ability to do this comes from clause 30.2 of the EBA, and typically was used historically when exchange installation staff were not able to work on the Telstra network – and a so-called “embargo” on continuing or commencing new work during the Christmas/New Year period was implemented in order to avoid unplanned outages.
We now find that some areas are moving outside of the Christmas/New Year period (the only time that is mentioned clearly In the EBA), to more opportunities such as what was tried on last Easter, and now the Monday before the Melbourne Cup public holiday in Melbourne. Whilst this day may be suitable for a number of Telstra staff, it might be unsuitable for others, particularly if you have limited annual leave, and are saving it for a particular purpose.
The ability of managers to “direct” staff to take leave comes up in 2 instances – firstly if you have “excess leave” (ie accrued 6 weeks at the time of the leave) or, in this case, if there is a genuine “shut down”. Many arguments over previous years regarding “shut down” have been had, and would only usually apply at the Christmas /New Year period. The shutdown must be a complete shut down – the doors must be shut, and no-one is on deck – no skeleton staffing, no provision for back up, no exemptions, etc. In addition, the “direction” must be a formal direction, not just an indication that we’d like you to take the time off.
In addition, any “direction” must be “reasonable” to do so, otherwise the direction is unlawful. Formal representation to Telstra Employee relations regarding this matter has been made this morning.