Rail Tram and Bus Union Queensland Branch
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QRN Restructure Dispute

22 August 2012

I refer members to the RTBU and Joint Union Circulars dated 17th, 18th & 27th July and 3rd August 2012 all relating to events following the RTBU, ETU and AMWU lodging disputes over the restructure.

Our Industrial Officers and Organisers have spent a substantial part of the five weeks in conciliation at Fair Work Australia. Members will be aware that since the dispute was submitted some fundamental positive outcomes occurred over and above the progress achieved through the structural consultation process involving members, delegates and union official responses along with the state level meetings.

Following the submission of our dispute notices a number of matters were resolved including hundreds of members no longer having to re-apply for their own jobs and improved security of employment for others.
However, members will be aware that several other serious issues were outstanding, a number of which related to the impact on members remaining in the workforce whose jobs were being removed.

Unions notified QRN of several disputes which could not be resolved in the first instance and therefore were taken by the three Unions involved to Fair Work Australia.

This process has been quite onerous to say the least, and whilst incremental progress was being slogged out by our industrial staff on a day to day basis, the going was slow and tough throughout as QRN was certainly very reluctant to step back from the positions defined in their “final decision” other than those achieved by the RTBU during the dispute process prior to the involvement of Fair Work Australia.

Today Fair Work Australia finalised the disputes by way of a Determination dealing with several matters subject of discussion over the past weeks. The outcome of the disputes was not completely to the Union’s satisfaction, however there has been some progress which establishes some important ground rules for the way EIT’s will be dealt with that provide some safety net protections as QRN moves into the next phase of the restructure.

One of the largest issues facing EIT’s is the potential drop in pay. EIT’s are normally paid at base rate given they aren’t usually required to work shifts, overtime, or weekends. Regardless of the reasons, a drop in pay is a drop in pay. QRN are now required to provide at least 6 weeks notice of a reduction in pay following notification that a person is to become an EIT. Where they work an 8 week cycle, QRN are required to use their best endeavours to align the notice period with the roster cycle.

Where the EIT remains in their workplace they will continue to receive the benefits of their Agreement. During the notice period, QRN will not contrive circumstances to reduce entitlements of their employees. An example of this would be where QRN attempted to introduce a roster change to remove shift work and reduce to day shift. Where an EIT is required to maintain time ‘on the tools’ to maintain a qualification, licence or other ticket they will be provided with the opportunity to do so unless it is ‘unreasonably onerous’.

Once the notice period has expired, the pay of the EIT will be at base rate. In addition to the base rate though, EIT’s will receive some other allowance and bonus payments available across a number of agreements. Whilst QRN had been keen to exclude all other payments aside from the base salary, we managed to get some back in play. Where an Agreement expressly rules out a particular allowance for those who are EIT they will not be paid.

Fair Work Australia determined that a number of allowances ought to be paid to EIT’s in addition to the base rate. These payments are considered to be ‘unconditional payments’. They are the Electrical Licensing Allowance, Tool Allowance, the Productivity Payment in the Coal and Regional Freight Logistics Agreement, and the ET stream All Purpose Allowance in the RACS Agreement. Where an EIT worked in an area which had bonus payments available, they are still payable on a pro rata basis for the time the person was in the workplace contributing to the calculation of the bonus.

It will not surprise members to learn that QRN stubbornly refused to move on some of the ground the Unions were attempting move, the outcome provides some key protections for those facing EIT status in the near future. QRN management, despite their public pronouncements are ultimately all about the bottom line. The various elements of the determination were not accepted by them easily or cheerfully.

To give an insight into the thinking of the company, when questioned about how many people had been accepted for voluntary redundancy, Unions were told that their ‘advice’ was they couldn’t tell Unions until they had made a ‘market announcement’. Despite questions to why that was the case there was no response other than to say that it was the ‘advice’ received by the company.

It should be noted that whilst the disputes submitted in respect of the general restructure have been addressed in the view of Fair Work Australia, this does not mean that individual issues emerging during the final play in this restructure cannot be addressed through the dispute settling procedure, a point recognised by Fair Work Australia.

Yours sincerely,

Owen Doogan
Branch Secretary