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Sydney construction workers urged to ‘Vote NO’ on multi-enterprise agreement pushed days before Christmas

Nicholas McCallum

Companies try to ram through agreement with vote days before Christmas. 

Several Sydney electrical companies are using this weekend – days before Christmas – to force a vote on their preferred agreement while running dirty tricks campaign to confuse members.

Unions are banned from working together to get better conditions for members. That’s called pattern bargaining and its illegal. But when bosses do it, it’s called a “multi-enterprise agreement”.

And that’s what Star, Stowe, Heyday, Fredon, FIP, Goldline and NCI down the throats of ETU members working in Sydney’s construction industry.

As well as taking the unsporting move of forcing a vote days before Christmas when most jobsites have shut down for the year, the seven companies are pushing an agreement that offers only a “measly increases over 4.5 years”.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QZXFivg99Ik

The ETU is urging members to vote NO to the agreement and they need all members who can vote to make sure they do.

Newly appointed NSW Secretary Justin Page says it’s important that all members take a few minutes this weekend to have their say and vote before settling down to relax for the holidays.

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“The companies are trying to force a vote on Saturday and Sunday three days before Christmas, when you should be out enjoying your Christmas break,” he said.  

ETU National Secretary Allen Hicks

As well as the low-ball pay offer, the proposal does not include over-time, double-time or site allowances, which are standard for other construction industry EBAs.

There are no increases to mert and no rate of pay for apprentices, the future of the trade – all solid reason for ETU members to vote the ballot down.

“It’s important to vote and to vote NO,” said Page.

ETU National Legal Council Alana Heffernan

“Your union believes this agreement is sub-standard and offers nothing in the way of improvement.”

A 28-year union members, Page said other states were backing the NSW branch and it was important everyone vote down the below-par multi-enterprise agreement.

“We’re all committed to this campaign and, united, we’re working together to ensure we get the best outcome for members.”

In addition to the last-minute Christmas vote, Star Electrical allegedly sent out material to employees about the vote claiming to be issued from the NSW ETU’s Acting Assistant Secretary Ben Lister.

But neither Lister nor the ETU had anything to do with it.

“That message was not written by me and it was not written by the ETU and its contents are untrue,” he said, adding the union was considering legal action.

ETU NSW Secretary Justin Page

“So make sure you vote on the weekend and vote NO so that we can move forward and bargain for single enterprise agreements.”

ETU National Secretary Allen Hicks has been on the ground helping the NSW construction crew out since July and has already signed up more than 500 new members and negotiated four new EBAs across Sydney.

But he said the ETU does not support the multi-enterprise agreement that “takes away your rights under the Fair Work Act”.

“It takes away your right to take protected industrial action if you need to,” Hicks said, a measure that would cut workers off at the knees in negotiations.

“It takes away your right to access bargaining orders and significantly reduces workers’ rights.

The National Secretary said the union was taking a stand for electrical workers who deserved a better off than what was on the table.

“This off that they have asked you to consider is measly increases over 4.5 years,” he said.

“We need to do more, and we need to do better than this.

“That’s why I’m urging all workers who work for these companies to reject this deal outright.”


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