News & Views

29th November 2017


Employers met yesterday at NECA’s South Melbourne office to review the ETU model EBA, negotiated after some 18 months between ETU and NECA representatives and proposed to replace the current 2010-2014 ETU EBA.  This document as advised has this past week been deemed by the ABCC to comply with the requirements of the controversial 2016 Building Code.
Foremost in the minds of the negotiating parties has been the need to redraft many of the current provisions in order that employers and workers can put in place an EBA that will not stand in the way of winning Commonwealth funded work, deliver fair and reasonable wage outcomes, and in turn secure jobs into the future.  This has by no means been easy, in an atmosphere where other building unions are rounding on the ABCC and the federal Government and demanding from employers at all levels, excessive wage increases in return for any Code related changes to working conditions.  It appears that many of these demands are opportunistic rather than justified under the Building Code.
Fortunately our negotiations were well-advanced.  Over the last few weeks NECA and the ETU have been locked in talks to settle the handful of union claims remaining, and falling from the most recent ABCC assessment of the proposed model EBA.  These discussions focussed on provisions regarding Drug & Alcohol policy, part-time and casual loadings, variations to hours of work and roster cycles, and RDO lockdown weekends, amongst others.
Whilst the ETU agreed to make a number of positive changes to the current EBA they held firm against any changes to the RDO, lockdown weekend provisions.  With the ETU’s veto power over an employer’s request to employees that they work on a RDO or lockdown weekend removed by virtue of the Building Code, the union held firm against any changes that would remove an arguable right to the payment of overtime.
Nonetheless, the proposed ETU EBA does contain improved flexibilities in relation to working on RDOs, lockdowns and Christmas/Easter shutdowns, and varying hours of work and roster cycles and notably too in relation to the use contractors without a requirement to pay penalties or as in the past ‘site rates’.
What does this mean for employers?
The proposed ETU model EBA does contain provisions that permit work to be carried out on RDOs and lockdown weekends at other than overtime rates via a consultation process that narrowly involves only the employees affected.  These arrangements are importantly to be committed to writing, ensuring clarity all round into the future.
Whilst negotiations at an industry level between NECA and the ETU have now concluded, with the proposed EBA changing a great deal for the better since the original version was circulated by the ETU (including now being code-compliant), there is still an opportunity for each employer to enter into discussions with the ETU at a local level with a view to adjusting the model agreement to suit the particular circumstances or risks faced by your business.  
This has come about as the ETU openly acknowledges that the circumstances faced by each employer are not necessarily the same and in the interest of securing their members employment the Union will always keep an open mind on changes that may be necessary.  Therefore, NECA will continue to engage with the ETU as this process continues through to the ballot stage to ensure the shared interest of all parties are protected.
EBA Ballot Process
ETU Victorian officials are now active in the field, requesting to meet with employers and ensure that the NERR (Notice of Employee Representational Rights) - in effect kick-starting the bargaining and/or the ballot process - is issued to employees (if this hasn’t been done already).
Where the ETU approaches your business, we encourage employers to arrange a face-to-face meeting with officials prior to their meeting with your employees.  Employers should take the time to ensure the EBA document placed before them by the Union is right for your business, and is the correct and latest version negotiated via NECA - conforming to the many legal requirements, including of course the 2016 Building Code.
Building unions, including the ETU, are currently approaching high profile Victorian employers and requesting they issue a NERR to their rail workers.  At the same time, the ETU is placing before employers a somewhat cobbled-together EBA draft document, claiming it is code compliant.
Employers are looking to NECA to promptly engage with the ETU to clarify their intentions, and the documents that will focus the proposed bargaining discussions.  This will no doubt be a complex process, taking place in a volatile industrial landscape.  We encourage employers to contact us here at NECA to discuss their needs, and the implications of issuing the NERR - which will in turn inform our preliminary discussions with the ETU.
Should you require our assistance in guiding your business through this process or examine ways to ensure you get the best value from a new EBA, please don’t hesitate to contact our expert Workplace Relations team on 1300 NECA IR (1300 632 247).
Andrew McIlroy
Head of Workplace Relations & Legal Services