Steel producers abolish RDOs, change job roles


Steel producers abolish RDOs, change job roles

Bluescope Steel and Onesteel have gained FWC approval to change staff responsibilities and abolish RDOs, as the industry takes steps to cut costs.


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Bluescope Steel and Onesteel have gained FWC approval to change staff responsibilities and abolish RDOs, as the industry takes steps to cut costs.

Maintenance staff to operate machines
RDOs abolished – with compensation

Maintenance staff to operate machines

A Fair Work Commission full bench determined that BlueScope Steel (AIS) Pty Ltd Trade Operator Model proposal was legal within the test in the BlueScope Steel Port Kembla Steelworks Agreement 2012. Commissioner Riordan now determined the details of the changes – noting that the proposals must be safe, efficient and fair.

The commissioner pointed out that essentially a tradesperson was being trained to be an operator. The concept of trade operator or operator maintainer was not a new phenomenon in the Australian industrial landscape. The operator maintainer classification was introduced at ICI Port Botany some 20 years ago.


BlueScope did not propose to provide any additional remuneration under this proposal. The commissioner noted this was unfair, but allowed the changes to take effect while a fair rate of pay was negotiated:

“I cannot see any industrial justification for a tradesperson to undertake additional training and utilise competencies from another stream in the Australian Qualification Framework standards and the associated training packages for no additional remuneration. Such a proposition is illogical and is inconsistent with numerous decisions of the Fair Work Commission and its predecessors in relation to issues such as cross-skilling and increased competency.

"Under normal circumstances, I would recommend a three month trial to 'test' whether the proposed work map is onerous or inefficient. It would also allow for an assessment of the productivity improvement and the skills/competencies required. 

"However, due to the obvious need to find urgent cost savings, I am not prepared to delay the introduction of the Trade Operator Model to gather this evidence. To do so would be unfair to BlueScope.

"On balance I am satisfied that the Trade Operator Model proposal is fair."

The bottom line: The FWC will take into account the economic realities of an industry and businesses in that industry and employment conditions can be altered to assist businesses to remain viable as long as the changes are fair and reasonable.

AWU & Ors v BlueScope Steel (AIS) Port Kembla [2015] FWC 6512 (24 September 2015) 

RDOs abolished – with compensation

Before the Bluescope decision was made Commissioner Roe decided an application to deal with a dispute under One Steel Distribution Agreement 2014-2015 in which One Steel proposed to abolish a RDO system to meet changed business circumstances.

The commission found in favour of the employer.

There was an extensive period of consultation about proposed changes with the majority of employees opposing change.

OneSteel agreed to pay a lump sum in compensation to each affected employee if the changes were introduced. 

NUW said the clause which provided the capacity to change shift rosters did not permit disturbance of the agreed pattern of hours and days of work.

However, the commission was not satisfied the right to an RDO was an implied term of the contracts of employment. It was satisfied the capacity to alter hours of work was specifically provided for in the agreement.

The commission concluded: “I am satisfied that the agreement specifically provides for ordinary hours to be organised without the provision of an RDO. This was also the case in the predecessor to the agreement. Therefore, no employee is suffering any loss of an entitlement to wages or other benefits as a result of the making of the agreement.”

The bottom line: The particular industrial instrument allowing for RDOs should be examined to determine if there is scope for change. In this case the commission found RDOS were not entrenched by agreement conditions.

National Union of Workers v Onesteel Metalcentre [2015] FWC 6350 - Roe C - 15 September 2015 

See also: Wage freeze – can employer absorb Annual Wage Review increase?
Notes on Rostered Days Off Policy 

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