Coles Enterprise Agreement (EBA) negotiations have commenced in Melbourne. The company intends to apply a new national agreement to all workers in its supermarket operation.
Currently all State Coles meat units have separate EBA’s in place negotiated by the AMIEU and Coles, with the exception of Queensland and the Northern Territory which are covered by the existing Coles National Agreement.
Our Queensland meat unit members have had their employment conditions eroded over time, with very little compensation given for conditions lost, leaving Queensland meat workers with inferior conditions of employment compared with many of their interstate counterparts.
AMIEU Queensland members know that the reason many conditions have been lost for little or no gain in the past, is that when prior national agreements have been put up for the vote by Coles, the collective meat worker vote forms an insignificant percentage of the total amount of employees eligible to cast a vote nationally (Coles currently employs around 73000 people).
Regardless of whether every single Queensland or Northern Territory Coles meat unit worker votes against a proposed national EBA (which may very well have been the case), Coles, with the agreement of the SDA, has been able to gain approval of past national EBA’s.
Coles is aiming to use a loophole in workplace legislation, which effectively allows them to make a single agreement covering all supermarket workers nationally, while removing a worker’s right to take protected industrial action.
The Fair Work Act allows a worker, from 30 days before the expiry of an EBA, to lodge a protected action ballot, giving workers the power to withdraw their labour when a company is making unfair demands during negotiations and an agreement cannot be reached.
With each of the State meat units having agreements in place which are not past or within 30 days of the nominal expiry date (several with expiry toward mid 2015), Coles, at this time, has a clear unfair advantage over meatworkers in these EBA negotiations.
The AMIEU nationally has formed a negotiation committee consisting of officials and delegates from each Branch. Coles has raised a Log of Claims which offers only losses to employment conditions, particularly those of meatworkers. The AMIEU negotiation committee is forming a response to the company’s position and will raise members’ claims at the next EBA meeting. It is worth noting that the online drivers and their representatives, the TWU, have been pulled into these negotiations and have similar concerns about the fairness of the bargaining process.
AMIEU members working for Coles will be updated on developments in the EBA negotiations as they come to hand. The AMIEU asks that members communicate between themselves and other store employees when information is provided.
If the company chooses to put another sub-standard EBA to the vote, it is important that all employees be aware of what they stand to lose. Active AMIEU members, willing to inform other store team members nationally, may make the difference between a fair agreement and one which strips wages and conditions of workers.