Unions and bosses agree — they dislike aged-care decision


Unions and bosses agree — they dislike aged-care decision

Unions and employers are in agreement on yesterday’s FWA decision to allow for industry-wide wage negotiations in the aged care sector — they don’t like it. However, that is about all they agree on.


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Unions and employers are in agreement on yesterday’s FWA decision to allow for industry-wide wage negotiations in the aged care sector — they don’t like it. However, that is about all they agree on.
The contentious point for the unions is that the decision does not cover workers who already have an enterprise agreement with their employer. 
The unions say this will cut out many already low paid workers from benefitting from any sector-wide wage increase.

Threat say employers
Employers claim the concept of any industry-wide wage negotiations is a threat to the integrity of enterprise-based bargaining and will damage productivity.
The Fair Work Act 2009 allows for industry bargaining only for those lower-paid workers who do not have the industrial strength to bargain effectively for wage increases — such as cleaners. But this can only be done with approval by FWA.
ACCI chief executive Peter Anderson said yesterday’s decision was ‘risky’.
‘[It] will need to be quarantined against similar union claims in other sectors if the integrity of productivity based enterprise bargaining is to be protected,’ he said.
‘In light of the decision, we’re firing what I would call “a warning flare”.’

Disappointed employers
‘We are disappointed that the tribunal did not impose tighter tests before unions can pursue industry wide ambitions. We will be watching closely to see if the unions now try to push this industry-wide bargaining into other sectors. That would be an alarming development.’
‘[The] decision is also a sober reminder that the current Fair Work Laws loosened the strict prohibitions on industry bargaining and multi-employer wage arbitration that was central to the Keating and Howard Governments’ industrial relations systems.’
‘The Australian government needs to now work with industry to quell union ambitions to widen the incidence of industry bargaining in the economy.’

Insult say unions
However, the union representing most aged-care workers, United Voice (formerly the LHMU), described the decision as ‘an insult to low paid workers and older Australians’ because it was restricted to workers without an existing enterprise agreement.
‘This means that those employers and employees who have done the right thing and engaged in enterprise bargaining are disadvantaged by being unable to attend tripartite negotiations with unions, employers and government where decisions that affect their funding may be made,’ said United Voice national secretary Louise Tarrant.
‘This legislation was introduced to give hope to the low paid but low paid workers are still being ignored.’
‘This decision makes it clear that the legislation needs to be reviewed as those who work hard while earning poverty wages will not have their voices heard and will be unable to move wages across their sector.’

Tarrant said the decision shows there are few mechanisms for low paid workers to have their voices heard, something that the Gillard Government must be prepared to fix to move Australia forward and end the crisis in aged care.
‘Fair Work Australia has shown through this low pay authorisation application that low paid workers will always be in the corner and ignored unless there is government action,’ she said.
The ACTU said the decision gave low paid workers a platform to improve wages and conditions.
But ACTU secretary Jeff Lawrence said the Act needed to be changed so all low paid workers across the aged care sector had the right to bargain.

He said the decision confirmed the limitations of the legislation and unions would take their concerns up with the Federal Government.
IR Minister Senator Chris Evans said unions and employers will now be required to bargain in good faith to achieve a multi-enterprise agreement for low paid workers.
‘The Government acknowledges that the Full Bench’s decision will see a number of employers who have existing enterprise agreements excluded from the multi-employer bargaining process at this time,’ he said.
‘The Full Bench did not accept the need for these employers to be included in the bargaining process on the basis that wage outcomes for these workers were already between 5% to 10% above the award rate.’
‘The Full Bench has indicated that this issue remains open and may be the subject of other cases.’
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