The IEU is a big supporter of the ACTU’s campaign to Change the Rules. IEU members across various sectors have seen how the shortcomings of the Fair Work Act have been used to deny reasonable claims for improvements, and more broadly, how the long running wages drought that has gripped the Australian workforce for much of the last decade is directly attributable to restrictions put on unions and workers trying to get a better deal.
Clearly things need to change, and a big part of this is reforming the framework of industrial relations in Australia. The ACTU’s #ChangeTheRules campaign has sought to identify problems with the existing system, and then seek commitments from various political parties to commit to fixing them. The current government has steadfastly refused to countenance any changes (and indeed, we suspect that they would strip back existing entitlements if they thought they could get away with it), and so to change the rules, we need to change the government.
Of course, changing the government in itself won’t be enough, and the campaign intends to keep the pressure on the now likely Shorten Labor government to make the necessary changes, and also on the Senate crossbenchers, who will probably maintain the balance of power.
On 10 April, the ACTU is holding a number of rallies across the nation, in order to keep attention on this issue in the run-up to the federal election, expected in May, and IEU members are encouraged to attend. If you would like to know more about the general campaign, go to https://changetherules.org.au.
Your Union is currently negotiating with several colleges for new enterprise agreements. Last month, the IEU reached an in principle agreement with Navitas English, and voting is taking place as at press deadline. The new agreement will provide for salary increases equivalent to the Wages Price Index (WPI), which is normally slightly above the inflation rate. The initial increase (backdated to October) will be 2.1%. There are also some small improvements to the classification table for support staff, which will hopefully make it easier for those staff to progress up the pay scale. These improvements have been secured without losing any existing benefits, despite Navitas’ attempts to wind back some of these. Your Union is endorsing a ‘yes’ vote.
Your Union is also bargaining at Insearch, UoW College, UNSW Global, Embassy English, Taylors College, and Sydney College of English. Most of these are still in the early stages, though Insearch has reached the ‘pointy end’, with most things agreed, but the outstanding matter of additional annual leave still has to be resolved.
The Fair Work Act includes provisions for ‘good faith bargaining’, under which an employer can be compelled to bargain if a majority of employers (or section of employees, such as teachers) can demonstrate that they want them to. To find out how this might work at your college, contact your Union, the IEU.
In recent months, the Morrison Government has sought to make some small changes to workplace laws. First of all, late last year, domestic violence leave was enshrined in the National Employment Standards. While this is a welcome development, this change is at the lesser end of what is required, and only allows for up to five days of unpaid leave for those suffering family and domestic violence. This is far short of the Union's preference for 10 days paid leave.
More recently, the government has introduced legislation to amend the Act to allow for casual employees to convert their employment to ongoing part time or full time roles, in line with the Fair Work Commission’s ruling last year that all awards should have a casual conversion clause included.
However, unions have criticised the proposed amendments, as it appears to allow employers a fair degree of latitude in determining who is and who is not a ‘casual’. Unions would prefer that the amendments instead rely on the common law objective test of casual work.
Should there be a change of government in Canberra later this year, we can expect a raft of other legislative changes, and members can be assured that the IEU will explain these in full.