The Fair Work Commission (FWC) has approved a new enterprise agreement covering technical staff at nbn.
The agreement was one of four recently voted on by nbn staff, each covering different sections of the workforce and involving different unions. Of the four, three were voted up by nbn employees and one, covering professional staff, was rejected.
These three agreements were among the first actually voted up by employees affected by the Abbott government’s new rules for bargaining in the Commonwealth public sector.
Those rules have seen Commonwealth employees faced with the prospect of accepting cuts to conditions in return for meagre pay rises, with pay offers not even matching inflation.
Not surprisingly, many have opted for industrial action rather than accept the government’s terms.
The main difference in the nbn situation, at least with the technical staff agreement, was that while the pay rise was low - 4.5% over 3 years - no major changes to employee conditions were involved. Employees had also already gone a year without a pay rise and knew that the government’s policy was a complete ban on back pay.
Given this situation employees clearly decided to take what was on the table and live to fight another day.
All the nbn agreements were put out for a vote before union negotiations had been concluded. For this reason and because of the low wage rise, the CWU advised its members that it could not recommend that they accept the agreement. Now that employees have spoken, however, the union has applied to be covered by the agreement.