Pre-election AWA push

A NUMBER of Australian companies are taking pre-emptive action with their employees on Australian Workplace Agreements (AWA) in order to ensure the continuity of certain employment conditions if the Australian Labor Party (ALP) comes to power at the forthcoming federal election

A NUMBER of Australian companies are taking pre-emptive action with their employees on Australian Workplace Agreements (AWA) in order to ensure the continuity of certain employment conditions if the Australian Labor Party (ALP) comes to power at the forthcoming federal election.

One such company is Telstra, who has been encouraging employees on AWAs to re-sign if they wish to maintain their current employment conditions.

“A number of employees on AWAs have been approaching us and asking about the impact on their AWAs if there was a change of government,”according to Telstra spokeswoman Megan Lane.

“We want to minimise the impact of any legislative change, give them certainty around their employment conditions and operate within the legislative framework of the day, and that’s what we’ve been telling them.”

Approximately 15,000 employees, or just under 50 per cent of Telstra’s workforce, are covered by AWAs.

She said the option to re-sign was entirely voluntary and there was no political motivation behind the move, adding that job security wouldn’t be impacted if employees did not renew their AWAs.

However Telstra had been holding briefings and emailed its employees, suggesting that their employment conditions could be jeopardised if a Labor Government abolishes AWAs, according to Craig Emerson, Shadow Minister for Workplace Relations.

“Telstra has told employees they can only have ‘certainty in their employment arrangements’ if they sign new AWAs,” he said.

He said Telstra should make it clear to employees that any condition of employment in an AWA can also exist in collective agreements, including salary sacrificing, career breaks and flexible leave arrangements.

“The latest question and answer document provided to Telstra’s managers proves yet again that AWAs are not negotiated with each employee, but are given to employees on a ‘take-it-or-leave-it’ basis,” he said.

He said managers are advised to tell staff that they can’t vary the wording in AWAs if asked, and that managers would determine the most appropriate type of AWAs for staff.

The Community and Public Sector Union (CPSU) also warned its members at Telstra to steer clear of signing new AWAs, claiming the company was unnecessarily scaring as many employees as possible into re-signing AWAs.

CPSU communications division secretary Paul Ingwersen also said Telstra would have some technical problems if it tried to put people on common-law contracts, because collective agreements override common law.

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