On Wednesday the negotiating committee met with Ausgrid management to continue negotiations on the Ausgrid Agreement.
As promised last week, the combined unions again attempted to make progress by putting on the table a package of the four contentious clauses -- outside of the also contentious CCR proposal. These clauses have previously been identified as roadblocks to an Agreement.
A summary of our basic position on each clause was put as follows:
A post 1 July 2020 Forced Redundancy provision with an annual cap of 50 forced redundancies per financial year and an extra payment of $100,000 for all forced redundancies. The higher Forced Redundancy payout means that the cap is a genuine one and applies to forced redundancies not voluntary redundancies. Without a significant differential between a voluntary and forced package, the cap becomes meaningless.
A contracting out clause that gives members and their delegates oversight of contracting out and some ability to prevent contracting out to rogue operators and the lowest bidder.
A Dispute Settlement Procedure that retains the current status quo provisions but places strict timetables on disputes.
A consultation provision that places strict timetables on the length of consultation required by Ausgrid.
A 3% annual wage increase over four years.
A Career, Capability and Remuneration scheme that objectively recognises skills and performance.
This package represents real concessions to Ausgrid while continuing to deliver on our key outcomes of job security, no trade-offs and a decent wage rise. It is a position that we think is worth fighting for all the way.
We also made it clear to Ausgrid that -- while we accept that the current skills structure mechanism for career advancement is somewhat dysfunctional and needs to improve - Ausgrid’s proposed CCR alternative will result in a severely downgraded pay scale for all your career paths. We have put the view that a combination of skills-based progression and performance-based pay may be a way forward.
The union also put the view that -- to have a hope of reaching a negotiated outcome -- we need to reach agreement on some basic concepts in relation to the major issues above. The fact that Ausgrid has already tabled an EBA proposal when some of the fundamental concepts on the major issues have not been agreed to makes negotiation very difficult. Ausgrid noted this view and has agreed to a smaller working group of union officials and Ausgrid management to try and reach in-principle agreement on the major issues above. This smaller group would then report back to the larger EBA negotiating committee with a view to working up the corresponding clauses if agreement on the basic concepts can be achieved.
In the meantime, in accordance with the resolution of the delegates meeting held on 11 October, we are finalising our application to the Fair Work Commission for a ballot of members to take protected industrial action. In accordance with what members have been telling us they want, the EBA matter will be brought to a head over the coming months.
Finally, Ausgrid has rejected our request for paid depot meetings and has said that we must hold meetings outside normal work hours. This is a concerning change from the last time we toured depots when access was given during work hours. It tells you a lot about Ausgrid’s unwillingness to allow us to speak to our members. What are they afraid of? If they think their current proposal is so great, surely it will sell itself! As a result, I will be scheduling after hours meetings over the next few weeks. It is important that these are well attended so that members get a thorough update on the negotiations and the industrial campaign we are about to conduct.
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