ACTU slams EBA termination threats as bargaining tactic

Albanese said he's 'sure' it will be discussed at the Jobs and Skills Summit

ACTU slams EBA termination threats as bargaining tactic

The Australian Council of Trade Unions has slammed employers who are threatening to terminate enterprise bargaining agreements (EBA) as part of a bargaining tactic.

EBAs are agreements between employers and employees that see to it that the latter are provided with better working conditions. However, ACTU said that there is a recent surge in cases of employers threatening to terminate existing EBAs if their workers refused to sign a new agreement.

"Using the threat of termination as a bargaining tactic is just unacceptable. The law was never intended to operate this way and this loophole is being used and abused by bad employers," said ACTU Secretary Sally McManus in a statement.

"Allowing employers to threaten massive cuts to pay and conditions unless workers sign on to a new EBA is not a fair process," she added.

According to ACTU, practices of EBA termination threats have taken place in universities, railways, factories, ports, airlines, and hundreds of other workplaces across Australia.

One of the recent cases is with Svitzer, Australia's largest tugboat operator, which recently applied to terminate an existing EBA, which would see up to 40% of pay cut for workers.

A spokesperson for Svitzer told the Australian Financial Review that the decision follows failure to reach a "sensible agreed outcome" with unions despite over 50 meetings, 11 private mediation sessions, and three conciliations with the Fair Work Commission.

The ongoing dispute saw Svitzer's workers stopping work on Friday in Australia.

Read more: ACTU urges employees to 'check your payslips' after wage increase

Industrial Relations Minister Tony Burke slammed during a conference the practice of EBA termination threats, saying that he "cannot see how this tactic can possibly be justified."

"I see this as a way to get out of freely bargained obligations, something we would not accept in the world of commercial or consumer contracts," he said as quoted by the AFR. "To me, this appears to be more than a loophole, it's a rort – and I'm disgusted that it's even being tried."

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese also said last week that the issue of EBA termination threats will be discussed during the Jobs and Skills Summit set in September.

"We've said repeatedly that the industrial relations system is not working in the interests of business or in the interests of workers," he told reporters. "And we will look to have constructive discussions between both employers and unions around how we can change that."

ACTU said it was encouraging to see the government act on such issues.

"We need to fix our broken bargaining system so that it produces the wage growth working people and the economy needs to get back on track. This is one of the issues that needs to be addressed," said McManus.

"After a decade of inaction and neglect under the previous government, it's encouraging to see a government standing up for working people and doing what is needed to get wage growth moving again."

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