The Guardian 23 April, 2008
ASU fights unfair Qantas valet AWAs
The Australian Services Union (ASU) last week welcomed the Workplace Rights Advocate’s report into the AWAs offered to customer service staff during the Qantas Valet Parking dispute.
The Advocate’s report identified potential breaches of the Act and a loss in terms and conditions and questioned whether the AWAs would pass the Federal Workplace Authority’s fairness test.
The investigation was launched by the Advocate in February this year after the ASU raised concerns about the AWAs being offered by Equity Valet Parking (EVP) at Melbourne’s airport. EVP was taking over Qantas’ valet parking contract from Hertz Australia, only offering employment in the form of a five-year AWA.
ASU Branch Secretary Ingrid Stitt welcomed the release of the report and said it vindicated the union’s concerns.
"Equity Valet Parking rushed these AWAs through in the dying days of Work Choices and the Advocate has found that workers will be significantly worse off under the individual contracts.
"The company tried to paint it as a union scare campaign but now an independent authority has validated our concerns and has asked for further investigations. What we want to see now is the employer sitting down and negotiating collectively for an agreement that is both legally and morally sound."
"The conditions at this company need to be brought up to an acceptable standard immediately."
The Workplace Advocate Report found:
The change in the definition of ordinary hours of work posed "a real risk that employees will be denied an entitlement to overtime and penalty loadings otherwise payable under the Award";
The unpaid parental leave provisions are less than the Award;
That despite the 4 percent per annum wage increase offered by Equity Valet Parking, "employees who generally work shifts will be considerably worse off";
The six month probationary period was excessive;
The notice period clause may breach the WR Act;
Serious concerns about the loss of a range of award entitlements such as accident make-up pay, paid jury service and redundancy protections;
A clause requiring customer service staff to pay $100 if there was a car accident potentially breached the Workplace Relations regulations.
The Advocate has asked the Workplace Ombudsman to re-investigate allegations of duress, to determine if company management breached the WR Act.
He also provided a copy of the report to the Director of the Workplace Authority over concerns that the AWAs would not pass the federal fairness test.
Ms Sitt said the Qantas Valet Parking dispute was another example of how WorkChoices ripped off workers by taking away workplace rights and conditions.
"The sooner collective bargaining rights are introduced into law, the better. What happened to our valet parking workers should not happen again."
The Qantas Valet Parking dispute was also highlighted in the Senate Inquiry report into the Workplace Relations Amendment (Transition to Forward with Fairness) Bill 2008. That report said the dispute was a "major example of the abuse inflicted on workers by the use of AWAs".