If there is a HSR meeting called by a manager can the HSR ‘insist’ on a Union Delegate being present?
Firstly let’s assume that the purpose of the meeting is to engage with you in your capacity as an HSR. While we do not know the subject matter of the meeting, it generally reflects positively when a manager seeks to meet with an HSR, as it demonstrates a commitment to their section 35 consultation duties and this type of conversation is not something we should discourage.
If you feel like having a second person present would be useful, HSRs possess the power to ‘seek the assistance of any person’ under section 58(1)(f) of our OHS Act. Page 37 of WorkSafe's Employee Representation Guide notes that HSRs are empowered to seek support from various individuals. These individuals can be within the workplace, such as another HSR or employee, or individuals outside the workplace with sufficient knowledge of OHS, including OHS consultants, union officials, or authorized representatives of registered employee organizations (ARREOs).
We encourage you to refer to the above provision if you encounter any resistance from management when requesting the presence of your union delegate at the upcoming meeting.
You have the option to decline a meeting if your delegate is not present to provide support. However, be aware that if the meeting is convened to fulfil consultation obligations (i.e. consulting with the HSRs before consulting the broader group), refusing the meeting until your delegate is available may impact what's 'reasonable practicable' for your employer.
For example, your employer might say ‘I attempted to meet with the HSRs to discuss the new shift patterns as a first step, but by the time we could arrange a meeting that accommodated both the HSR and the Delegate, I had to inform all staff.’
If the meeting does go ahead and you feel blindsided by the discussion, you should feel confident in halting the meeting, and request its rescheduling for a later time. This may be to properly consider materials or proposals, or to speak to or organise the attendance of your Union Organiser.