Work, Employee Rights

Fighting back against the generalised JDF

Budget cuts for staff in any workplace brings with it a number of risks – spiralling overtime, higher levels of stress and an expectation that everyone left needs to ‘step up.’ What happens when ‘stepping up’ or ‘embracing change’ means that your Job Description Form (JDF) suddenly becomes unrecognisable to you?

We hear more and more stories about roles changing so they are unrecognisable to the members who initially sought the role. The trend of the dumbed down, generalist JDF seems to be spreading — changes which occur where a role is rewritten to become a jack-of-all-trades and a master of none, place staff in a difficult position where they are expected to do ‘a little bit of everything.’

CPSU/CSA advice is that the best time to defend your working conditions is to act early.

  • When change is initially discussed, staff – through the union —have the power to ensure management notifies and consults. The ability of union members to impact the change process diminishes once the Consultation and Notification period expires
  • Your employer has a duty to consult. The best results are achieved when staff work collectively to mitigate any negative impacts that will come from the change process and ask key questions about what specific impact the changes will have. 

If the change process has progressed to the point where the specifics of JDFs are being discussed, the horse has bolted and it can be too late for the union to make meaningful change. It’s important that change is tackled early and everyone follows the approach ‘we not me’.

By waiting to see what the specific impact for your individual situation will be, the process of change has usually progressed too far and responses are reactive rather than proactive.

Act early, act often

When discussions about change worry union members, help is available.  If, early on, the employer does not consult in a meaningful way this may be a trigger for the dispute to be referred to an industrial tribunal, especially if management aren’t willing to hear your side.

This approach can seem counter-intuitive to many. How can you challenge and provide feedback on change before you’ve been given specifics?  Acting early ensures that the specifics are not something you totally disagree with as you have had input from the beginning.  The specifics of a JDF are a matter for the employer, challenging a change process at this stage is unlikely to have a substantial impact.

Change must be measured by assessing the operational impact on everyone in the workplace – a winning strategy is to keep a big picture focus and ask the question: ‘How will the workplace operate if the proposed changes go through?’

For many agencies in Western Australia right now, the answer can be really worrying. There is nothing left to give.

As one example, the Union is currently working through confusion around higher duties responsibilities within Driver Vehicle Services. As staff numbers fluctuate, and roles become less defined, difficult questions need to be asked around what work will be passed on to other staff without their consent or due compensation.

Management has the power to specify the duties and responsibilities of existing roles and create new roles.  These new roles may be at a lower classification level and there is no capacity to challenge the initial classification of a position after the event.  It’s only when an existing position is reclassified that the Union can become involved but this requires proof of a ‘significant increase in work value” this has proved to be a very high bar when we have challenged an employer’s decision not to reclassify a position. The safest option is to meet, work out a strategic approach to determine the true impact of the proposed changes and act, early and collectively. 


So how do you ensure your workplace has the best chance of managing change in the workplace?

  1. Be alert to change proposals  early;
  2. Ensure your workplace has union delegates;
  3.  Ensure you send your delegates information;
  4. Use your JCC to obtain information from the employer early and on an ongoing basis;
  5. Act, plan and care collectively;
  6. If you let management get to specifics, it may already be too late!

Need more help? Talk to your union – 9323 3888.