TMR: They'll ask the umpire to give you less than 2.5%

Posted October 19, 2011 by Alex Scott

In previous emails we've talked about the fact that negotiations for your next TMR EDA8 collective agreement reached an impasse so we'd called on Queensland's independent umpire to intervene a begin a process called "arbitration".

We also let you know that this was a tough choice to make because arbitration can take a long time and the outcome is uncertain but that delegates were buoyed by your determination not to accept an unacceptably low pay rise.

Now we want to let you know that as part of the arbitration process the government can agree to give you an "interim pay rise" while the arbitration runs its course.  They've said they'll agree to an interim pay rise but... They'll ask the umpire to give you less than 2.5%.

After 7 months of negotiations they still haven't budged from their stance of EDA7 alignment with Core EB wages.

Even after Queensland Police Officers got a 3.8% pay rise in August 2011 and it was widely acknowledged that this was because the Commission took into consideration the rising cost of living hitting Queensland public sector workers and their families - TMR and the Government refused to budge.

As part of the Police arbitration the government agreed to give the Police Officers a 2.5% pay rise while everyone waited for the outcome of the arbitration.

But this time the government think it's fair that you should only get an interim pay rise that represents your "alignment to the Core EB rates".

If they get their way an AO8-4 only gets a 2.35% pay rise and the worst off workers, AO2-4 gets just 1.15%.

Everyone knows the government's "wages policy" is higher than this at a minimum of 2.5% and that CPI is currently well above this at 3.6%.

To win we'll need to take our case to the community, and we'll be asking for your support to do that. Vote in our Facebook poll for fair wages by clicking here and ‘like' our Facebook page  (you may want to do this at home in case your access to Facebook at work is blocked).

What about ‘arbitration'?

Have you missed the last few updates?  Here's a quick summary of how you're campaign for better wages and conditions got to the point of arbitration and what this means.

During collective bargaining if the parties can't reach a negotiated outcome they can ask the independent umpire to decide.  That's what we've done.

In 2009 this Government created the new Department of Transport and Main Roads and having done so forced all former Queensland Transport & former Main Roads works into the new department mixing workers covered by the Core EB and Main Roads EDA 7 agreements.

TMR and government reps have maintained a firm position that harmonisation of the two sets of conditions (i.e. Core EB and EDA7) had to be achieved by aligning the EDA7 pay rates with the Core EB pay rates—giving the EDA7 workers less than a 2.5% pay rise.  To entice members to accept offers during the negotiations they included once off lump sum payments which changed as the campaign increased. 

You saw through this and called them, at best, steak knife incentives and at worst, bribes.

Every time you were asked to vote on offers, give feedback at workplace meetings and join state-wide teleconferences you said - it's not good enough!

In early September Together members across Queensland attended meetings held by their workplace delegates and at these meetings you said you'd had enough of the your department and the Government's lack of good faith bargaining and it was time to escalate your case to the independent umpire, the Queensland Industrial Relations Commission. 

Since this time TMR and the government have once again attempted to secure a negotiated outcome by putting a further proposal to your negotiating committee delegates.

Unfortunately TMR requested that the details of this proposal be kept confidential and as a result the Commission recommended the details not be disclosed to the wider membership.

What we can say is that during the last few weeks of on again, off again negotiations TMR and the Government have not changed their position on your pay rise.  They still argue that alignment of EDA7 pay rates with Core EB pay rates is fair and reasonable even though it represents less than 2.5% pay rise for workers.  And they still think you're interested in once off payments that don't increase your base salary.

While they were willing to discuss having a separate agreement for all TMR workers this was conditional on your accepting their position on wages and they advised they were no longer in a position to discuss the implementation of any sort of progressional scheme for AOs as per your log of claims.

Because their position didn't improve significantly delegates decided you'd wasted enough time entertaining negotiations that were no longer fruitful and asked the Commission to reconvene a hearing to begin the arbitration process.  There are no set timelines for arbitration as it depends completely on the arguments put by both parties and the length of time the "full bench" of Commissioners take to consider and come to a decision.  It past public sector instances it has taken up to twelve months or a little more.

What happens next?

Today the parties exchange a list of matter to be arbitrated which for Together will include many but not all of the items in the log of claims.  Some of  the matters in our log of claims will not be pursued through the arbitration process for strategic industrial reasons. 

These are items where traditionally we have had better success in negotiating outcomes than arbitration. For there has not been any instance where a progression scheme for Administrative Officers has been successfully arbitrated.  Progressional schemes have been delivered by negotiations, not by arbitration processes.  An unsuccessful pursuit of an item in arbitration could lead to a precedent that will limit any future negotiations. Great care has been taken to ensure that the arbitration will deliver the best possible outcome for members without hampering future negotiations.

Your negotiating committee delegates will head back to the Commission next week on Wednesday 26 October 2011 to commence the formal arbitration process.

Further updates will be provided as significant phase of the arbitration process occur however the updates during this next industrial phase of your campaign will not be as regular as during the intense campaigning phase - they'll just happen as the arbitration process plays out and reaches significant milestones.

PS.  For more regular updates on Together campaigns like our new Together Queensland facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/togetherqueensland

 


Authorised Alex Scott, Secretary, Together.
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