PM Scott Morrison wants unions and employers “to put down their weapons”, claiming this is the way jobs will be created. However, history shows otherwise, writes Mary Merkenich.
About 1600 members of the Australian Worker’s Union (AWU) employed at various ALCOA Aluminium refineries and bauxite mines throughout Western Australia again sent a strong message to the American multinational to negotiate a fairer Enterprise Bargaining Agreement after the company’s EBA was voted down on March 2.
Both of Victoria's daily newspapers, The Age and the Herald-Sun, had front page articles on March 6 attacking the proposed enterprise agreement covering firefighters employed by the Metropolitan Fire Brigade (MFB). This agreement is currently being voted on by MFB staff.
Firefighters employed by the Metropolitan Fire Brigade (MFB) have begun voting on a new enterprise agreement, which includes a pay rise of 19% over four years.
The previous agreement expired in 2013.
MFB management resisted including clauses in the new agreement requiring it to consult with the United Firefighters Union (UFU) on a range of questions, such as equipment and uniforms, and clauses clearly specifying the rights of workers in relation to issues such as rosters.
Delegates to the National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU) National Council, the union’s annual conference, condemned Murdoch University and Victoria University managements’ anti-union attacks and called for enterprise agreements to be terminated only where workers and unions agree.
Western Sydney University (WSU) staff went on strike on September 20 over stalled negotiations on their pay and working conditions. The half-day strike and rally, called by the National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU), took place at WSU’s Parramatta City Campus.
University management has delayed the bargaining process by unilaterally removing core entitlements from the NTEU’s enterprise agreements, while resisting members’ key demands. Staff at WSU say they are concerned about looming job cuts, the downgrading of classifications, increased workloads and job insecurity.
An increasing number of employers are asking themselves why they should have to abide by the terms of an Enterprise Agreement with their workers and unions, when it would cost less money if they didn't. Many have come to the conclusion that they should simply escape the obligations of their agreements.
The National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU) said the Fair Work Commission’s decision on August 29 to agree to terminate Murdoch University’s enterprise agreement (EA), which covers more than 3000 staff, is extremely disappointing but not unexpected.
The test for terminating an agreement is very low. The agreement must be past its expiry date, negotiations for a replacement agreement must have been unsuccessful, termination must not be against the public interest and it must be considered “appropriate” to do so.
Multinational giant Unilever, which owns Streets ice cream, has applied to the Fair Work Commission to terminate an enterprise agreement at its Minto plant in western Sydney. If the workers are forced back on to the award, they would suffer a significant loss in pay and conditions.
The Minto workers, members of the Australian Manufacturing Workers Union (AMWU), rejected a proposed agreement that would have seen new employees paid less and with worse conditions compared to existing workers.
CSIRO staff voted by 58% to approve a new enterprise agreement, in a second round of voting after the 70% No vote last October.
The CSIRO Staff Association said the new agreement restored rights including a commitment to secure, ongoing employment, flexible working hours and on-site childcare, which were not in the October deal.
“While the new agreement represents a substantial improvement on the CSIRO’s first offer there is a long way to go to rebuild morale, trust and confidence among scientists, researchers and other staff,” the Staff Association’s Sam Popovski said.