Flexibility clauses ‘worse than AWAs’, says union


Flexibility clauses ‘worse than AWAs’, says union

The manufacturing union wants an arbitration power to force employers to collectively bargain in good faith, and says the modern awards flexibility clause is ‘worse than AWAs’.


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The manufacturing union wants an arbitration power to force employers to collectively bargain in good faith, and says the modern awards flexibility clause is ‘worse than AWAs’.

And, the ACTU executive is so concerned that workers will be worse off after the modernised awards are created that it wants the Federal Government to abandon its plan that priority awards be completed by 31 December this year.

AMWU national secretary Dave Oliver told WorkplaceInfo that the real issue for his union is collective bargaining.

‘Yes, we are concerned at the delays to IR reform by the Rudd Government,’ Oliver said. ‘We are part of a process, in a dialogue with government, and we knew we were not going to get legislation overnight.'

Respect majority views

‘The real issue for us is bargaining. We want the Government to deliver on the on the good faith aspect and we are expecting some kind of arbitrative powers so employers are forced to respect the views of a majority of the employees.'

‘Cochlear is an example. A majority of the employees want a collective agreement, but the employer has been holding out for months and refuses to have an agreement.'

‘There has to be some way of honouring the majority view.’

Oliver said he was extremely concerned that the flexibility clauses would become de facto AWAs.

No scrutiny of flexibility clauses

‘In fact they are worse than AWAs, which were at least subject to some scrutiny,’ he said.

‘The flexibility clause agreements can just sit in the top drawer of the boss’s desk without anyone seeing them. We are quite concerned at this development.’

Oliver said he expected employers would use the flexibility clauses to attack three key areas: hours of work, penalty rates and shift loading.

Oliver was also part of the ACTU national executive meeting that has rejected the current award modernisation process.

Cut to wages and conditions under award modernisation

The executive passed a resolution that pointed out award modernisation ‘on its current terms has the capacity to cut wages and conditions’ and to undermine the effectiveness of awards as a safety net.

The resolution expressed concern at the breadth of the flexibility provisions, including the lack of adequate safeguards, the capacity to disadvantage employees and the capacity to undermine collective bargaining.

The executive decided to seek changes that include:

  • the lifting of all lower rates and the on-going adjustment of all rates and conditions through wage case and test case decisions of the AIRC

  • ensure equivalent pay and conditions for current and future employees

  • where appropriate, maintain different conditions within an award that reflect different occupations or sectors within a particular industry

  • allow for industry and occupational awards;

  • to not extend the scope of a modern award to include occupations that have been traditionally covered by broad occupational or industry awards without the agreement of the relevant union

  • ensure the making of a modern award does not affect coverage or demarcation agreements or the rights of unions to continue to represent workers they have traditionally represented.

The executive called for the current timeframes for modernisation to be extended and the Government remove the requirements that the priority awards be finalised by 31 December.

Protect role of unions

As well, the ACTU executive wants the Government to enshrine in legislation fair principles and a role for registered organisations in on-going maintenance of modern awards.


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