ETU knocks off baseline agreement!

Unions fought back this month against a dodgy labour hire agreement, winning an appeal to stop it at the Fair Work Commission (FWC).

By Ashvini Ambihaipar, ETU National Industrial Officer

Labour hire company Celotti workforce submitted a dodgy labour hire baseline agreement with low pay and conditions to the FWC and it was approved. However, there were some key problems with the agreement and the process of approval, so the ETU and other unions fought back and appealed the decision.

Firstly, the unions involved were not able to access important information from Celotti or the commission such as submissions, payroll and time sheet information before the decision was made, denying us procedural fairness.

Once we requested access to the contracts and other documents, we spotted discrepancies between what the company submitted about its workforce and what roles the workers actually performed. The agreement was supposed to cover 12 awards, with a minimum of one worker covered by each award but this was proven wrong as a worker was not classified in the correct job.

Secondly, the employer failed to properly discuss the terms of the agreement with the workers before they sought approval. The employer provided over a 1000-page document via email with no further steps to explain. Workers had no context around the terms and what effect they would have.  90 out of 91 of the employees were casual and there was no existing agreement to compare to, no bargaining representatives and nearly half were vulnerable workers.

Because of this lack of explanation to workers, the FWC found that they could not have genuinely agreed to the agreement, as they weren’t properly informed.

In the end, the FWC overturned the decision, and the company discontinued the application. It was a win for workers and showed the important role that the Union plays in knocking off these baseline agreements.

National Assistant Secretary, Michael Wright said:

“This is a crucial victory in our fight against sham enterprise bargaining. This baseline agreement reeked corporate avoidance of Fair Work obligations, and the decision sets a new benchmark for cracking down on the behaviour. We still have a long way to go, but this is an important brick in the wall for re-establishing true bargaining and empowering our members.”

This article was publised on 28 October 2020.