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2013-05-21

Opposition IR policy: wolf in sheep’s clothing?

Postal e-Bulletin 2013 - #8

  1. Post EBA offer well short of being fair to postal workers
  2. CWU seeks commitments from federal parliamentarians on postal services
  3. New Zealand Post can’t justify three-day mail delivery, says union
  4. Trial of new motorcycle boots and gloves to commence shortly
  5. Flu vaccination trial
  6. New Post vans to be fitted with cameras
  7. Decipha EBA negotiations continue
  8. Fair Work receives $21.4 million for crack down on workplace bullying
  9. Opposition IR policy: wolf in sheep’s clothing?
  10. Dhaka death toll rises above 1,000

1. Post offer well short of being fair to postal workers

AP has submitted an EBA8 offer to your union.  Your union has informed post there is no in-principle agreement on this offer.  A few branches are happy with this offer and others do not.  No decision has been taken by the CWU as discussions are set to continue.  Our concerns include:

No sign on bonus to make up for wages falling behind inflation over last 3 years

No new pay rise until Dec 2014, then 3% Dec 2014, 2015, 2016 but only if profit made and targets met. (The offer does include up to 1.5% in Dec 2013 but this is not new as it was promised under the existing EBA if performance targets met.)

Post will only pay wage increases if AP makes a profit

None of the pay rises in Post’s offer would count for superannuation purposes, meaning pay rise is effectively paid for from a cut in your superannuation benefits

Allowances will only increase if Post makes a profit.

Go to www.eba8.com.au for full details.  Give us your feedback at ebainfo@cwu.org.au or via our phone app below.

2. CWU seeks commitments from federal parliamentarians on postal services

The CWU has written to all federal parliamentarians requesting commitments to oppose any attempts to privatise AP and any reductions in AP’s Community Service Obligations (CSO) to deliver mail 5 days a week and, to maintain a network of retail outlets including in rural and remote areas.

These important issues and the current EBA negotiations were followed up by the union in meetings with federal parliamentarians earlier this week in Canberra.

In essence the union’s message to federal parliamentarians was that privatisation, reducing service standards, cuts to the retail network and poor wage outcomes is not the solution to declining mail volumes.

The decline in mail volumes in Australia is being balanced in the area of parcel deliveries which are growing at some 20% a year due mostly to the growth in online retailing and Australia Post’s extensive retail network.

By contrast the experience of privatisation in mail services overseas is that it has led to declining standards in mail services and a reduction in the retail network provided by the service.  This in turn has reduced the capacity of these postal services to capture growth opportunities in non-monopoly areas such as parcel delivery.

The evidence is clear - reductions in community service obligations and privatisation lead to a loss of confidence by the public and the loss of growth opportunities for the postal service.  (Meanwhile we have recently seen NZ Post, for instance, propose that their service be reduced to three delivery days per week - see the following story.)

3. New Zealand Post can’t justify three-day mail delivery, says union

Trade unionists have said there is “no justification” for reducing mail delivery in New Zealand to as little as three days a week. The Engineering, Printing and Manufacturing Union (EPME) has told ministers that cutting the delivery schedule will overload delivery staff on the days when mail is delivered, backlog sorting centres and isolate rural and remote communities reliant on the mail for communications.

The union representing more than 4,000 postal workers in New Zealand said that with New Zealand Post making a profit, it didn’t need to cut delivery services. Although traditional mail volumes are decreasing, the union said parcel courier volumes have improved profitability at the state-owned postal service, while financial services arm Kiwi Bank is also pulling in income.

The union warned, in its formal submission to the government’s pubic consultation on New Zealand Post’s proposals, that reducing postal delivery will mean breaking the trust of the public. And, the union suggested that cutting back delivery services will play into the hands of New Zealand Post’s main private sector competitor, DX Mail, which provides a five-day delivery service in most urban areas.

EPMU national industry organiser Joe Gallagher claimed that suggestions that New Zealand Post would need government subsidies unless it cuts delivery frequency was “pure speculation and scaremongering”. He said the union would be calling on ministers to protect New Zealand Post’s social obligations.

4. Trial of new motorcycle boots and gloves to commence shortly

Following concerns raised about the waterproof qualities of the current motorcycle boots and gloves AP has agreed to trial two new motorcycle boots, one from Yakka and one from Dririder, and two different sorts of motorcycle gloves.

The boots and gloves will be trialled by representatives nominated by CWU and AP from each State. Trial participants will be given two sets of boots to trial and will be required to rate each of the new boots and the current Rossi boots.  A similar process will be followed for the gloves.

The trials are expected to commence in June and will run for eight weeks after which the joint AP/CWU wet weather gear working group is expected to meet to hear and evaluate the trial results.

5. Flu vaccination trial

After many requests by the union to provide free flu vaccinations to workers AP has finally agreed to trial an influenza vaccination program at 11 retail outlets nationally.  The trial will investigate whether influenza vaccinations will have a positive impact on retail workers health and absenteeism over the winter months. 

For those workers in the nominated post offices who wish to participate in the trial the postal managers are to contact their local clinics to set up appointments during working hours.  This means that workers can leave work earlier, start later or take an extended lunch break. (That’s got to be a first for retail!)

6. New Post vans to be fitted with cameras

As a way of addressing the union’s and drivers’ concerns about no side windows in postal vans AP has advised that the proposed new Renault vans will have additional fittings, namely side and reversing cameras will be added.  In addition, AP proposes revising the method of lighting and replacing the seat on the Renault Master.

A follow up risk assessment on the two fully fitted vans, i.e. the Renault Master and Renault Traffic, concludes that these additions have greatly reduced the risk to the drivers of operating these vehicles and concludes that the new vans offer modern, low risk environments for AP drivers.

In light of the risk assessments and modifications to the vans AP does not consider the installation of side passenger windows necessary – who would have guessed that?  How long has this been an issue?  While we would all prefer side windows at long last AP has been forced by the union and its members to make modifications to the vans to address side vision and safety issues.

7. Decipha EBA negotiations continue

The CWU and Decipha management met again last week to continue EBA negotiations. While the parties had put many of their issues on the table in a general way at the previous meetings this time the union put greater detail around its log of claims.  Some of the claims discussed in greater detail included:

  • more notice for change of roster - currently workers may only get 7 days notice, even though management knows well in advance when a contract will end and, therefore could give longer notice so that people can better prepare for roster changes
  • tea-breaks of 15 minutes duration plus the opportunity to discuss when these breaks are taken eg. before and after meal break
  • separation of annual  leave loading from the hourly rate of pay so that people have extra money when on leave rather than it being incorporated into base rates to artificially prop up pay rates
  • remove junior rates of pay
  • increase the overtime meal allowance
  • annual leave to be taken by agreement and employer to approve leave in a more timely manner
  • technical classifications to have 5 increment levels
  • personal leave increased to 15 days
  • right to request changes to working arrangements to care for elderly parents, adult children with a disability etc.

Decipha management provided a little more detail on their claims including their claim for a 2 year rather than 3 year agreement, reduction in number of levels within current classifications from 4 to 3 i.e. delete top increment level, introduction of split shifts for part-time employees and option to transfer employees on to common law contracts! The parties are expected to meet again next week.

8. Fair Work receives $21.4 million for crack down on workplace bullying

The Fair Work Commission (FWC) has been given $21.4 million in the budget to crack down on workplace bullying. The government has outlined $21.4 million to be provided to the FWC over the next four years to fund legal remedies for victims of workplace bullying. The funding comes alongside new bullying legislation which is set to take effect from July 1.

Workplace Relations Minister Bill Shorten said in a statement the crackdown comes alongside reports from the Productivity Commission which show workplace bullying could cost $36 billion in productivity every year.

"This massive cost has to be reduced for the good of individual workers, for the good of business owners and for the good of our national economy," he said. "The most productive and profitable workplaces are those where there is respect between workers and employers."

The FWC will begin hearing bullying complaints from July 1 – although the accompanying Fair Work Amendment has yet to pass through Parliament. The FWC will have the power to make an order regarding bullying in the workplace where the bullying could not be resolved between the parties involved.

9. Opposition IR policy: wolf in sheep’s clothing?

The Coalition has at last released its Industrial Relations policy – and it has not pleased anyone.

Pro-business interests are already calling for stronger measures, describing the policy as “timid”. But unions have warned that the Coalition is set to make big changes to the workplace landscape, both now and in the future.

The Coalition has essentially decided on a two –stage approach with a number of measures designed to weaken the labour movement’s ability to organise being introduced in its first term of government (if it wins the election)and wider changes to follow after the 2016 election.

In its first term the Coalition would:

  1. make it harder for unions to enter workplaces to consult with members and potential members
  2. bring back the much-hated building industry police force, the Australian Building and Construction Commission
  3. encourage the wider use of Individual Flexibility Agreements (IFAs)
  4. restrict the ability of union members to take protected industrial action in pursuit of enterprise agreements.

In relation to industrial action, the Coalition would require the Fair Work Commission (FWC) to agree that claims made during bargaining were “fair and reasonable” before industrial action could be undertaken. And it would also outlaw industrial action before bargaining had commenced.

These steps might look reasonable to many people – as they are designed to. But they have a sting in the tail. How, for instance, will the FWC determine what is “reasonable” – and how long might employees have to wait for an answer to that question?

Opposition IR policy: wolf in sheep’s clothing?And how will union members bring a reluctant employer to the bargaining table if they can’t use industrial action to do so? 

If they can persuade a majority of employees in a company to join them in bargaining they will be able to force the company’s hand, but if not they will be powerless.

Various commentators have suggested that these measures are politically cautious and cleverly designed to hurt unions but not employees. But they are far from innocuous.

They are designed to make unions and their members less effective and less able to fight against the more systematic attacks on working conditions that the Coalition has in mind for what it hopes will be its second term.

The second stage of the plan involves getting the Productivity Commission to examine the Fair Work Act to see whether it actually helps productivity. There are no prizes for seeing what the risks are here.

Penalty rates – the centre piece of business’ campaign in recent years – will be targeted. Unfair dismissal laws will also be in the Coalition’s sights.

The ACTU has called on the Coalition to spell out just what it will ask the Productivity Commission to do, knowing that what answers you get from such inquiries depends on the questions you ask.

But it unlikely that the IR wolf that now is at least partly hidden in sheep’s clothing will fully emerge until after the next federal election – should the Coalition win.

10. Dhaka death toll rises above 1,000

As anticipated, the final death toll from the collapse of a factory building in Bangladesh now stands at over a thousand, making it one of the worst industrial accidents in history.

The eight-story Rana Plaza building in Savar near Dhaka had housed five garment factories with over 3,000 workers present at the time of the accident. The factory owners had ordered workers into the building, despite their objections due to serious, visible cracks noted in the building on 23 April, the day before the collapse.

Dhaka death toll rises above 1,000Thousands of workers were injured in the disaster, many critically, and hundreds will suffer permanent disability.

There has been a series of deadly accidents in Bangladesh's garment industry, which accounts for 80% of the country's exports and employs around 4 million people.

There was a fire in November 2012 that killed 114 people, while a fire has killed eight people at another garment factory in Dhaka since the Rana Plaza disaster.

Those killed in the recent fire were not workers but managers and officials, including at least one political operative, prompting questions as to the close relationship between the Bangladesh political elite and the poorly regulated and exploitative industry.

May Day in Dhaka saw Bangladesh’s garment workers, the majority of whom are women, calling for a radical overhaul of health and safety standards in the industry as well as strong penalties for negligent factory owners.

And internationally the labour movement has joined with a series of activist groups to demand that all multinational corporations sourcing garments from Bangladesh sign up to the legally binding Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh immediately.

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