Victory for ANZ workers

Issue 
FSU members advocating a 'NO' vote.

A major victory has been won by ANZ workers and the Finance Sector Union (FSU) against ANZ bank.

On February 16 ANZ’s proposed changes to the enterprise bargaining agreement were rejected by 64% of union members. This victory for ANZ staff came on the same day that ANZ announced a new CEO for its Australian operations.

“Thousands of staff have said NO to a broken pay model, clawbacks on job security, hours of work and penalty rates,” said National Secretary of the FSU Fiona Jordan.

“The final ballot result was 5028 Yes and 9127 No (that’s almost 2 to 1). As a result of the ballot the current agreement will remain in force.”

On September 2 the ANZ tabled a “radical proposal” that prompted 4800 ANZ employees to sign a petition calling on the ANZ to “drop the nasty clawbacks of important rights and conditions”. Throughout the campaign there had been nine enterprise bargaining meetings between ANZ and the FSU. However, the situation deteriorated to the point where the ANZ accused the FSU of intimidation and Fiona Jordan accused the bank of having “no respect for the industrial laws of Australia”.

There were three key changes being proposed by ANZ in the EBA, all of which were attacks on workers’ rights: changes to redundancy definitions, the introduction of flexi-part time work and the extension of “standard hours”.

The redundancy definition change involved the broadening of the term “directly comparable role”. This would have allowed the ANZ to direct workers to take another role that management considered them able to do or be trained to do, thereby removing their right of choice in the redundancy process. If a worker were to refuse a “directly comparable role” they would be treated as resigning and would not be entitled to redundancy or retrenchment payments. From the ANZ’s perspective this would have allowed for easier redeployment of staff with the opportunity for further outsourcing of jobs.

The flexi-part time proposal mandated that a worker must be available to work for 140 hours over four weeks but could end up working for only 64 hours. Flexi-part timers would have a minimum shift of three hours or in some cases two hours. They would not have been entitled to “payment above contract” loading, rosters would be at discretion of management and if they were injured at work, they would only be paid compensation for their contracted hours.

If an existing permanent part-timer decided to move to flexi work, they could only withdraw in the first six months and would have to give three months’ notice. There was no guarantee that current permanent full-time and part-time staff numbers would be kept. The FSU noted the example of BankSA, which ceased to employ permanent part-time staff as soon as flexi-part time roles were introduced.

The extension of standard hours allowed ANZ to remove incentive payments for work done outside standard hours. The ANZ would have stretched “ordinary hours” from 7am to 9pm Monday to Friday and 8am to 6pm on Saturdays. The FSU estimated that 2000 ANZ staff would have had their incentive loadings “ripped off” if it went ahead.

After announcing a record full year profit of $7.3 billion in October 2014, ANZ had no justification for these attacks on its employees. Fiona Jordan rightly stated that ANZ did not put a proposal forward that was “fair and respectful to its hard working staff”. This resounding “No” vote by ANZ workers has sent a clear message to ANZ and all other companies: that workers are willing to stand up and fight to protect their job conditions and that they can win.

[Robin Mayo is a member of the FSU and Socialist Alliance]

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