Workers to picket as enterprise deal fails

WORKERS at Fremantle council’s depot will start a campaign of strikes, pickets and stop-work meetings from next month over a failed enterprise bargaining deal.

The two unions covering most of the 60-odd staff at the depot — the CFMEU and the LGRCEU – have been given the green light by the Fair Work Commission to take protected industrial action as of October 6.

It follows a 42-16 vote last week to reject the council’s proposed EBA.

CFMEU organiser Brad Upton told the Herald the dispute had come down to a single clause in the EBA which allowed the council to send staff home and exhaust their leave and entitlements if it was hit with extraordinary circumstances.

The clause exists in the current agreement and was used by the council to stand down dozens of staff during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Mr Upton said after that experience his members want it removed.

“We had a couple of members who became really down in the dumps … they couldn’t get any money because they’d been stood down and didn’t qualify for any benefits,” he said.

“We had to go to the mayor to rectify that.”

Following the workers’ vote and application to the Fair Work Commission for protected action, the council’s paid industrial relations consultant, Stephen Farrell wrote to the two unions offering to continue negotiating “in good faith”.

But the letter outlines a plan to scrap the proposed deal and start from scratch and there were “no guarantees” any conditions or offers from the previous negotiations would be carried over, which has the CFMEU scratching their heads.

“We put in for the protection of workers in relation to one item, and now they are wiping off the entire agreement,” Mr Upton said.

There is a clause in the Fair Work Act that outlaws industrial action for a “greenfields agreement” but Mr Upton says their action was green-lighted by the commission during well-established negotiations over an existing agreement.

by STEVE GRANT

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