Discussions with Telstra about the content of a new modern award have at last been finalised and a date has been set for the matter to go to the Fair Work Commission.
The application for the Telstra Award 2014 will be heard by a Full Bench on Wednesday 17 December in Canberra.
The content of the award has been agreed upon by Telstra and the relevant unions – CWU, CPSU and APESMA – after nearly two years of discussions and, recently, eight conferences chaired by Commissioner Lewin.
Commissioner Lewin has had a long involvement with the Telstra awards and was able to offer guidance about the modernisation process while not himself being part of the Full Bench that will hear the application.
The Commissioner’s strong advice was to reach agreement on as many matters as possible rather than inviting the Commission to determine them.
With this advice in mind, the unions have negotiated a package which removes some seldom-used or obsolete provisions (such as the 34 hour week for Operators) but which preserves most core award entitlements in areas such as hours of work, leave, overtime payments and penalty rates.
If approved, the new award will provide a much stronger safety net for bargaining than the modern industry award which, as E-bulletin readers will remember, Telstra initially wanted to adopt.
The CWU successfully opposed that move. It is now up to the Commission to determine whether the content of the modern award will reflect Telstra employees’ strong views in favour of retaining their current award conditions.
Members should be aware, however, that whatever the Commission’s decision is, it will have no immediate effect on conditions. These are protected by the Enterprise Agreement (EA). The new award will only become relevant – as a safety net – when the next round of EA negotiations begins next year.