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2013-03-22

Postal e-Bulletin 2013 - #4

  1. EBA negotiations commence
  2. Australia Post to simplify parcel products and raise prices
  3. Salary for superannuation to be explained
  4. CWU seeks study on heat impacts on PDOs
  5. CWU tells Post to comply with FWA re employee notification of absence from work
  6. Heavy and large parcels cause manual handling concerns
  7. Health and safety committees – who decides?
  8. Second tranche of Fair Work Act amendments
  9. FWC knocks back employers on penalty rates
  10. Australian union members deserve and will get the highest standards

1.EBA negotiations commence

The CWU and Australia Post commenced formal EBA negotiations this week.  The parties meet Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday with the union outlining its draft log of claims and Australia Post outlining its business imperatives.

Australia Post says the wage outcome needs to be fair for employees and sustainable for their business. The next agreement also needs to enable workplace flexibility that will help them boost productivity and offset some of their rising costs.

The CWU said that AP should acknowledge that they already had significant productivity growth through 1.5% wages outcome under the current EBA and commit to wage increases under the new EBA that would restore fairness in the workplace. Special EBA8 Bulletins are being produced. EBA8 Bulletin No 2 will be produced next week. Watch our web page www.cwu.org.au or download the CWU phone App.

To improve our bargaining power, we need you to get involved, contribute, put forward your ideas, and play a role in organising to get a better EBA. Contact your CWU State Branch or the CWU Divisional Office on cwu@cwu.org.au  or go to www.cwu.org.au

2.Australia Post to simplify parcel products and raise prices

Australia Post has announced plans to increase prices and simplify its parcel products, as well as introducing tracking to all domestic parcels from 8th April, 2013. Post said its price changes will not affect the basic 60c postage rate for letters.  But, prices will be adjusted for various parcels, international and bulk mail services, such as the 5% increase in the basic Parcel Post rate, and a 2.7% increase in bulk mail pre-sort letters pricing.

Australia Post said the rate increases were required to support its business with a “reasonable” return on its assets, within a competitive environment and changing technology and consumer trends.

As well parcel services are being simplified in response to customer feedback suggesting the need to make domestic parcel products more flexible and easier for customers to use. A new range of parcel products will offer three speeds – Same Day, Next Day or Regular. Within those services, customers can send a Small 500g parcel, a Medium 3kg parcel or a Large 5kg parcel, or use their own packaging up to 22kg. The maximum weight and dimensions for all domestic parcels have been standardized to 22kg in weight, 0.25 cubic metres in size and 105cm in length.

Parcel customers will also be able to add features including Extra Cover, Signature on Delivery, Email Track Advice or Cash on Delivery. Under the new system, the company said all domestic parcels sent via an Australia Post retail outlet will be traceable through its online tracking tool from 8th April.

The new system also sees Australia Post introducing a new Same Day delivery service, called Courier Post, for delivery between metropolitan areas within the same state for parcels sent by 2pm. With Signature on Delivery and Extra Cover offered as optional features with the Parcel Post service, Post will be removing its Registered Post service for domestic parcels. The company is also planning to remove its Prepaid Express Post 3kg large and Express Post 5kg large satchels service.

3.Salary for superannuation to be explained

Your superannuation lump sum is defined by years of service and final average salary (FAS). FAS is your "salary for superannuation purposes" averaged over your last 3 birthdays. Your "salary for superannuation purposes" is obviously very important. For non shift workers, it is your base salary, but some allowances might be added to your salary. For shift workers, your shift penalties in a year are added to your base salary. Some allowances might also be added to your base salary.

We have now received agreement from Australia Post and APSS that on your next annual statement, the full details of the components of your salary for superannuation purposes will be explained. This is a welcome development. In the meantime, shared services should be able to assist you.

Overtime and Superannuation

No overtime, including rostered overtime is included in salary for superannuation purposes.

4.CWU seeks study on heat impacts on PDOs

The CWU has informally (at this stage) sought Australia Post’s co-operation in a study to consider the impacts of heat on Postal Delivery Officers (PDO) when temperatures exceed 30 degrees centigrade. This summer we experienced a number of very hot days and the union is concerned about the Health and Safety issues. The union is concerned that whole body temperature may be raised on very hot days because of the PDO’s personal protective equipment (PPE).

A study should be established to investigate the following:

  • The impact of heat on the body, when wearing significant PPE
  • Whether the whole body temperature rises above accepted norms
  • Whether temperature and humidity plays a part
  • Whether better PPE exists for use in hot weather
  • Whether delivery should be suspended on very hot days
  • Whether other measures exist to mitigate the effects of heat

A joint study by independent specialists would facilitate a united approach to any concerns identified.

5.CWU tells Post to comply with FWA re employee notification of absence from work

The CWU has again informed Post of our view regarding their proposed implementation of a scheme whereby employees are required to notify ‘an independent’ third party when notifying unscheduled absences, such as an absence due to illness.  Our view is the same as it was in our earlier reply to them in July 2012. In essence our view is that the requirement for third party notification of unscheduled absences due to illness etc is not in accordance with the Australia Post FWA.

Furthermore when the issue has been raised by the CWU with our call centre members they have expressed serious concerns regarding this scheme, including:

  • there are no real benefits  to employees from the scheme
  • there are better ways to reduce absenteeism, i.e. make people feel valued and supported, and
  • the cost of the scheme is particularly worrying, especially at a time when CEO and MD, Ahmed Fahour, claims finances are limited.

Australia Post is on notice should it take any action to implement a scheme requiring employees to notify a third party of absence from work.

6.Heavy and large parcels cause manual handling concerns

Following concerns raised by the CWU at the Australia Post National OHS Committee in relation to Australia Post’s approach to handling heavy/large parcels we have been provided with copies of Safe Operating Procedures using parcel straps for XL parcels and a document titled, What are Extra Large (XL) Parcels? - setting out a three tiered approach to handling heavier items from 50kg to 160kg.

In addition, we have learnt that the maximum weight for dimensions for all domestic parcels have been increased from 20kgs to 22kgs in weight, 0.25 cubic metres in size and 105cms in length.

While not wanting to disrupt Australia Post’s transition to increasingly becoming a parcels business, really in this day and age, no-one should be lifting 50kgs manually. As well, raising maximum allowable lodgement weights at the counter to 22kg raises concerns about what equipment will be provided in retail outlets to handle heavier parcels and what will delivery staff do who collect from LPOs operated by one person on their own?  Will they be expected to lift the parcels on their own?  Will they be provided with appropriate lifting equipment?

In fact, a 16kg weight limit for unaided single person lifts has applied in Australia Post work places for decades - qualified these days by: where a more detailed assessment has not been conducted and there are no “downstream effects” of the increased weight. 

We have therefore requested a review, including a site inspection, of the three tiered approach to examine issues such as the frequency of the lifts, how many hours someone can safely be expected to perform this type of work and the equipment provided to aid with lifting.  We have also requested consultation on the increase from 20kgs to 22kgs. Australia Post has after all a duty under the Work Health and Safety Act 2011 to remove or reduce the manual handling risks – not just keep propping up the weight employees are expected to lift. 

We would be interested to hear any comments from members on how the three tiered approach and 22kgs weight limit is operating in your workplaces.  You can contact your State Branch or the Divisional Office cwu@cwu.org.au

7.Health and safety committees – who decides?

The Work Health and Safety Act (WHS Act) which came into effect last year provides for health and safety committees to be formed in a workplace either at the request of employees (or their health and safety representative) or on the employer’s own initiative.

Under the WHS Act “at least half the members of a local health and safety committee must be workers who are not nominated by the person conducting the business” i.e. Australia Post.  Health and Safety Representatives also have a right to be members of their local committees.

Health and safety issues that are of immediate concern to members such as the use of new load shifting equipment or the taking of rest breaks should be taken up and addressed at workplace level through the establishment of work groups and the election of health and safety representatives.

If you are interested in having a health and safety committee in your work place or you would like to be a health and safety representative then contact your CWU State Branch or the CWU Divisional Office on cwu@cwu.org.au

8.Second tranche of Fair Work Act amendments

The Federal Government has introduced its second tranche of Fair Work Act amendments in Parliament. The amendments relate to increased right-of-entry for union officials, family-friendly working arrangements, mandatory roster change consultation, and workplace bullying protections. The Fair Work Act Amendment Bill 2013 also makes penalty rates a modern award objective.

The right-of-entry changes for union officials include: giving union officials access to lunchrooms as a default meeting place; empowering the Fair Work Commission to rule on frequency of visit disputes; and having employers "facilitate" right-of-entry visits to remote locations.

 ACTU secretary Dave Oliver said employer opposition to the amendments were part of a "scare campaign". "They are clearly hoping to send a message to Tony Abbott that he should bring back Work Choices," Mr. Oliver said. "Business groups should stop running a baseless scare campaign and focus on working with their employees to improve Australia's productivity."

However, Mr. Oliver said unions were concerned that arbitration for intractable bargaining disputes had been shelved for the moment.  "The fact that important promised changes to arbitration, which would allow workers to have access to an independent umpire, have been left out is a concern for unions and working people," Mr. Oliver said. "But we fully expect the Govt and the Minister Shorten to honour the commitment given to workers in further amendments to the Fair Work laws," he said.

9.FWC knocks back employers on penalty rates

In a win for workers who rely on penalty rates for a decent living wage, the Fair Work Commission (formerly Fair Work Australia) has knocked back an employer push to weaken penalty rate provisions in the hospitality and retail sectors.

Employer groups had called for a 50% reduction in Sunday rates in a number of “modern” awards: the General Retail Industry Award, the Fast Food Industry Award, the Hospitality Industry (General) Award, the Food, Beverage and Tobacco Manufacturing Award and the Hair and Beauty Industry Award 2010.

Employees in the areas covered by these awards are among those who depend most on penalty rates to compensate them for working unsociable hours in jobs which are often insecure. FWC said that the employer groups have provided insufficient evidence in support of their push for the lower rates.

ACTU President Ged Kearney said that the decision was a major victory for workers in the industries concerned. “Working late nights or week-ends is still a sacrifice for workers,” she said, “particularly those with families and penalty rates must remain to reflect this. Removing penalty rates would effectively be a pay cut for 500,000 low-paid workers.”

“With millions of Australian workers in insecure forms of work, penalty rates are more important than ever for casual and low-paid workers struggling to pay the bills.”

10.Australian union members deserve and will get the highest standards

A message from ACTU Secretary Dave Oliver

I’ve been a union member all my working life. The union movement I believe in is one that fights every day for fairness and which puts its members’ interests first.

Recent allegations against a few individuals, the most prominent being Craig Thomson and Michael Williamson, have shocked and saddened me. There can be no place in the union movement for corruption or the misuse of members’ money.

Last year the ACTU appointed an independent expert panel to produce a report into union governance. We did this because we want to make sure that Australian workers can be members of unions with the highest possible standards. The panel, chaired by former Federal Court Justice Rod Madgwick QC and made up of experts from academia, business and the law, delivered its report to union leaders this week. This report is available on the ACTU website.

The report has found that despite the recent publicity there is no widespread misuse of members’ funds by Australian unions, and unions are honestly run. It has also found that our unions are among the most tightly-regulated in the world and that there is no case for changing the way unions are regulated, including Tony Abbott’s half-baked idea to treat unions like major profit-making corporations.

I don’t think it will be a surprise to union members, who see hard-working delegates and officials in action, that the vast majority of the movement is doing the right thing. It is deeply unfair for all unions to be tarred by allegations made against a few. This report is a challenge to us to make sure that we have the highest standards of governance.

The report covers areas of financial oversight and planning, policies and procedures, reporting and transparency, employment and remuneration policies, conflicts of interest, training, best practice and membership grievance procedures. I know that many unions already have strong standards of governance. The report itself noted that its recommendations were already in place in many unions.

We want to make sure that unions learn from each other and these standards of governance are adopted across the movement. The ACTU will set up an implementation committee to lead and assist unions in improving their processes, and the establishment of a Governance Advisory Panel.

This report is not an ending, it is the beginning of a process which will see a lift in the standard of union governance in Australia.  Unions asked for this review and we are looking forward to implementing the recommendations.

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