EBA update and the taking of annual leave
Members will recall that in the 8th of April Newsletter we informed you that MB management had withdrawn the December 2019 EBA and Wage Offer (Offer) and delayed the EBA negotiations for some 5 weeks because of the Covid-19 pandemic, and to see if the situation was any clearer in May 2020. Since then we have had 2 EBA meetings, on the 18th and 28th of May.
18th May meeting
At this meeting MB management repeated that it was not in a position to table the Offer again because of ongoing concerns regarding income, future billings, downturn in personal injury enquiries and class actions etc arising out of COVID-19. The ASU responded that we understood that but we still wanted to bargain around the Offer. MB said no, but they were prepared to offer a 12-month Roll-Over Agreement with a pay increase for that 12-month period. The ASU responded that we had little time to consider this option but we know that the critical factor in any acceptance was largely dependent on the size of the wage increase for the 12-month period. We asked what was the wage increase offer and MB replied that they could not answer that question until a board meeting on the 26th of May. So we set another meeting for the 28th of May to consider the decision of the board regarding the wage increase for a proposed 12-month agreement.
28th May meeting
At this meeting MB informed the ASU that the board had decided to offer a 1.75% wage increase for the proposed 12-month agreement. The ASU Caucus, which is comprised of ASU officials and some 13 delegates from around the country, said this wage increase was far too low and that we would be seeking around 3.5% for any 12-month agreement. This figure was based on wage outcomes in our current EBA and wage increases contemplated in the December 2019 Offer. After much discussion the ASU reduced its figure to 3.25% while MB raised their offer to 2.25% operational from October 2020 and not July 2020. In other words, people would not be back paid between July and October. When the ASU asked if the 2.25% wage increase could apply from July 1 instead of October 1 the response was no.
The ASU informed MB that we were not happy with that wage offer but we felt we could not unilaterally reject it without canvassing members. Thus we set another EBA meeting date for the 17th of June. This would allow the ASU to consult with members and give MB management an informed response to their wage offer on the 17th of June. Union officials and ASU delegates will contact members in the next week to organise members meetings on this issue. Stay tuned for an ASU announcement on the date and time of the Victorian members meeting.
Taking of Annual Leave
In the past few days the union has had enquiries from around the country regarding MB management “directing” or “asking or encouraging” employees to take annual leave so to help the firm during this pandemic. Members have reported to the ASU that they are confused as to whether they are being directed or asked to take some leave, especially in light of Simone Hartley-Keane’s email to staff dated 27th May. This issue was discussed at length at the 28th of May EBA meeting.
Direction to take annual leave
MB management informed us at the 28th of May meeting that employees with annual leave balances with more than 8 weeks have been written to individually and directed to take leave. This is consistent with clause 23.6 of the EBA. The union movement as a whole in this pandemic crisis supports the taking of excess leave to assist companies in reducing liabilities as opposed to job losses and stand downs. This may include those with 10 weeks leave to take 3 weeks leave which brings them down to 7 weeks but then will accrue leave again between June-December 2020 and thus will return back to 8 weeks. However, having said that, we do NOT support people being directed to take leave with less than 8 week leave balances. This should be only be done by agreement.
“Asking or encouraging” employees to take leave
Companies generally can ask or encourage people to take leave, they can direct people to take leave if the industrial instrument allows it (e.g. clause 23.6 of the MB EBA above), but they cannot FORCE you to take leave. Members are reporting to us that they are confused about these distinctions and feel forced to take leave when speaking to Managers or when they read MB communications. For example, in Simone’s email the Subject reads: “Reminder to book annual leave for the remainder of 2020” which sounds somewhat like a direction as opposed to the text which says, “…you are encouraged to have a conversation with your manager…”. This is followed by, “We ask that you book your leave by Friday 12th June..” which despite the word “ask” suggests you should get on with it by the 12th of June, creating confusion. We asked MB management at the 28th of May meeting to clarify the communication and remove the ambiguity and confusion, but its response was that it was happy with the existing communication and phrasing.
ASU position on leave is clear
The ASU position on leave is as follows: firstly, if you have excess leave as per clause 23.6 (more than 8 weeks leave) you can be directed to take leave; secondly, you can agree to take leave if you want to; thirdly, you cannot be forced to take leave. If you are asked by your Manager to take leave and you do not qualify under clause 23.6 you can politely say no. If you need advice or have any difficulties with this matter then you should contact your delegate or union official for assistance.
Want more information?
If you have a question, please don’t hesitate to contact your ASU delegates or Organiser Sarah Haar at firstname.lastname@example.org.