Cochlear told to ‘accept reality’ and negotiate after AIRC ruling

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Cochlear told to ‘accept reality’ and negotiate after AIRC ruling

The ‘bionic ear’ manufacturer Cochlear has been told to ‘accept reality’ and negotiate a collective agreement with its workers after its latest attempt to terminate its existing agreement was again rebuffed by the AIRC.

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The ‘bionic ear’ manufacturer Cochlear has been told to ‘accept reality’ and negotiate a collective agreement with its workers after its latest attempt to terminate its existing agreement was again rebuffed by the AIRC.
 
The termination was originally refused on ‘public interest’ grounds, and now a Full Bench of the AIRC has upheld that decision.
 
‘Cochlear needs to accept the reality that now is the time to sit down with the union and draw up a collective agreement in accord with their worker’s wishes,’ said Dave Oliver, national secretary of the Australian Manufacturing Workers Union (AMWU).
 
Oliver said a full bench of the AIRC has upheld the original decision to reject the termination of the existing agreement, thereby declining Cochlear’s appeal.
 
Cochlear’s appeal rejected
 
The full bench concluded:
‘Cochlear submitted that to require consent to terminate the Agreement would subject Cochlear’s employees to an injury in their employment or alter their position to their prejudice for a prohibited reason, being the removal from the employees covered by the Agreement of the opportunity to choose from the range of industrial instruments, bargaining arrangements and industrial representation which would otherwise be available to them, without first obtaining the consent of the AMWU to the termination of the Agreement.
 
This submission is unsustainable. The continuing operation of the Agreement prevents none of those things. All that it means is that they bargain from the Agreement as the base, instead of the lower base that might pertain were the Agreement to be terminated …
 
Unless the appellant can demonstrate that the Commissioner erred in reaching her conclusion the appeal must fail. We have found that the Commissioner did not err in concluding that it would be contrary to the public interest to terminate the Agreement having regard to the terms of cl.1.4. We adopt an approach similar to that adopted by the Full Bench in Harvey v Australian Injection & Illicit Drug Users’ League. We do not need to consider the other grounds upon which the Commissioner concluded that it was contrary to the public interest to terminate the Agreement …’
Workers want collective agreement
 
Oliver welcomed the decision and said it reflects the wishes of Cochlear workers who have voted no less than five times for a union collective agreement instead of individual contracts.
 
Cochlear employees are predominantly female and 95% are from non-English speaking backgrounds.
 
Oliver said that the union has always maintained that Cochlear workers needed the support of a union collective agreement to ensure that they obtained a fair outcome in negotiations.
 
‘Cochlear needs to accept the reality that now is the time to sit down with the union and draw up a collective agreement in accord with their workers' wishes.'
 
‘Cochlear initiated this dispute under the old WorkChoices laws, which the Australian public voted out.'
 
‘This is why we need a mechanism that ensures employers bargain in good faith especially in workplaces where the majority of employees desire it.’
 
Oliver said Australia is about to enter a new environment, with new Fair Work Australia laws to be introduced in July.
 
Adapt to new environment
 
‘Cochlear will have to adapt to this new environment and ensure that their workplace accurately reflects the needs of their workers,’ he said.
 
Before coming to her original decision, Commissioner Helen Cargill surveyed the workforce and found a significant majority (of those who responded) wanted a union collective agreement — which the company refuses to negotiate.
 
Commissioner Cargill said there are some negative public interest considerations that would flow if the Agreement is terminated.
 
 
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