'Stop AWAs if sick leave cuts pay', Howard urged

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'Stop AWAs if sick leave cuts pay', Howard urged

Prime Minister John Howard has been called on to intervene to stop an AWA which cuts workers overall pay if they take the sick leave or carers leave they are legally entitled to.

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Prime Minister John Howard has been called on to intervene to stop an AWA which cuts workers overall pay if they take the sick leave or carers leave they are legally entitled to.

The Australian Services Union (ASU) says it has legal advice that the AWAs could be discriminatory under both State and Federal equal opportunity legislation and called on Howard to protect the 80 workers concerned.

'The AWA is unfair and harsh because it penalises those who get sick and those caring for family members,' said ASU Victorian Private Sector Branch Secretary, Ingrid Stitt.

The ASU said the AWAs apply to call centre workers at Global Tele Sales (GTS), a wholly owned subsidiary of Lufthansa Airlines. The call centre employs 80 people in Melbourne and is part of the Lufthansa multi-billion dollar network worldwide.

Unfair dismissals don't apply

'Employees at GTS are terrified and feel they have been forced to sign the AWA,' Stitt said. 'GTS has fewer than 100 employees and therefore unfair dismissal laws do not apply.'

Stitt said the Company has introduced an elaborate and confusing performance bonus scheme which delivers bonuses ranging from 0% - 4% per quarter. Maximum bonuses are linked to exceeding KPIs (key performance indicators), taking no more than one personal leave day, and never being late for work.

'On the face of it employees could earn 16% bonuses each year, but in reality the thresholds for doing so are so high - never being sick, achieving 110% of already high KPIs, and never being late - it is hard to see even the best of the best making the standard,' she said.

Stitt said that despite having a collective agreement that does not expire until December 2006, the Company has offered a deal in which its own briefing material concedes that employees' base wages will be cut by up to 10%.

Penalty rates cut

'Penalty rates are also cut, which is significant for this almost 24 hour operation, with penalties for work on public holidays and Sundays reduced from 100% to 75% and the penalty for work before 7am and after 7pm Monday to Fridays removed completely,' Stitt said.

'According to the Company's own figures, the removal of these penalties reduces each employee's annual salary by almost 5%. The combination of these two cuts means that employees lose between 8-15% of base salary under the new individual contracts.'

Stitt said the two year individual contracts do not guarantee any pay rises, instead providing for a 'review of wages in January 2008 in line with the most recent increase in minimum wages in the Australian Fair Pay Commission'.

'No-one knows what that will be, or whether there will be an increase, or what the review will bring,' she said.

'No pressure' says company

The ASU says Global Tele Sales claim that it is not putting pressure on employees to sign the AWAs, 'but in their own documentation the Company makes it clear that':

  • The conditions offered are not negotiable;
  • The Company will not negotiate a new collective agreement, but if it does it will be on the same or less favourable terms;
  • Any employee who doesn't sign won't get Lufthansa travel privileges (which is a significant benefit); and
  • If targets for productivity increase and cost efficiencies are not met, 'the Company [will have] no choice but to seek concessions from those who have not signed an AWA'.

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