Employer attempt to terminate agreement defeated in Commission
A Registered Training Organisation (RTO) was forced to abandon an attempt to terminate its employees’ collective agreement after a hearing in the Fair Work Commission (FWC) last week.
Think: Education!, formerly Careers Australia, had sought to terminate the collective agreement and force employees onto Award conditions which would have meant losses in conditions, including those around overtime, hours of work, study leave, professional development and annual leave.
Our union represented a united voice of employees in the Commission alongside the Australian Nurses and Midwives Federation (ANMF).
Prior to the Commission hearing, the employer refused to negotiate a replacement collective agreement and indicated its intention to place employees on individual contracts.
However, the employer’s plans came unstuck in the Commission hearing when it was unable to substantiate any argument that the agreement termination would be beneficial.
During cross examination of the employer’s witnesses it was also proven that documentation Think: Education! provided to staff in the lead up to the termination hearing was false.
IEUA-QNT Senior Industrial Officer John Spriggs said it was concerning that the employer’s lack of honesty with its employees was only acknowledged as false once the employer was in the Commission.
“The employer failed to be honest with its employees and was forced to acknowledge a number of failings, including that written material provided to employees regarding its position following the termination, if it occurred, was false.” Mr Spriggs said.
Mr Spriggs said the failure of an employer to secure an agreement termination application was unusual in the current industrial climate.
“The Commission has granted almost every agreement termination application since 2015.
“However, in this case, the employer has been placed in a position where they have had to withdraw the application as a result of our union’s intervention.
“It’s just another case of how broken Australia’s industrial rules really are given the system currently puts all the power firmly in the hands of employers.
“Our country’s broken industrial laws embolden employers such as Think: Education! to maintain a ‘take it or leave it’ approach when it comes to negotiating the working conditions of their employees and to threaten termination of agreements when they do not get their way.
“We need new rules that prevent employers from taking such shameful action in the first place.”
Find out more about what unions are doing to change Australia’s broken industrial laws at www.changetherules.org.au