Unions win first battle over flexibility

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Unions win first battle over flexibility

Unions have won the first battle over the application of individual flexibility clauses in enterprise agreements, with Campbell’s Soups buckling to pressure from the AMWU.

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Unions have won the first battle over the application of individual flexibility clauses in enterprise agreements, with Campbell’s Soups buckling to pressure from the AMWU.
 
Workers at Campbell’s have been locked out since Friday of last week over the dispute as to what could be covered by the flexibility clause and how it would be applied.
 
The Federal Government’s Fair Work Act 2009 stipulates that enterprise agreements and modern awards must have a flexibility clause, but in agreements it is up to the parties involved to decide what is in the clause.
 
Undermine agreement
 
Campbell’s wanted the right to negotiate flexibility with individual workers, but the union was insisting that the fundamental terms of the agreement could not be changed on an individual basis because that would undermine the agreement.
 
The AMWU said such matters as changes in hours, leave and holiday shifts had to be agreed to by a majority of workers.
 
After the union took industrial action on the matter, the company then locked the workers out.
 
‘Team’ flexibility
 
Yesterday the company agreed to compromise. Flexibility arrangements will now not be negotiated with individual employees but with discrete work teams, in which a majority vote will be needed for the changes to be accepted.
 
A spokeswoman for Campbell’s Soups, Toni Jones, said the company was seeing the result as a ‘win–win’ because it still had the scope to pursue flexibility improvements.
 
‘It can't be done with an individual,’ she said.
 
‘It has to get a majority ... from the work team in question. The union didn't want employees to have the right to agree to individual flexible arrangements, even though the law states the individual must be better off overall.’
 
Ban individual bargaining
 
The AMWU now intends to try to have individual bargaining banned at other companies where it is negotiating agreements.
 
‘We think that individual bargaining is something that's been a failed experiment in this country, particularly in the context of blue-collar workplaces,’ said AMWU Victorian state secretary Steve Dargarvel.
 
He said the company had accepted the union's argument that the real productivity gains were ‘not to be had by pursuing these individual employment matters’. He said he believed the agreement complied with the Fair Work Act.
 
Inequality
 
Dargavel said the union opposed the individual arrangement due to inequality in the relationship between the employer and the employee.
 
He insisted the agreement was a win for company and the workforce because it focused attention on real productivity issues.
 
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