Bulk tanker webinar explores industrial relations matters

The Victorian Transport Association’s Strategic Industrial Planning Officer, Paul Ryan, spoke about various Industrial Relations (IR) matters as part of the recent National Bulk Tanker Association (NBTA) webinar.

Ryan started by touching on a recent Federal court determination on annual leave called the Mondelez Decision – named after the American food company that owns Cadbury.

“The decision was based around how much personal (annual) leave an employee is entitled to; the Full Federal Court decided a person working 12-hour shifts is entitled to 10 12-hour days or 120 hours of personal leave per annum (PA),” said Ryan.

“The High Court determined that the national employment standards reflect that 76 hours PA is the community standard and that’s what people on regular hours are entitled to in terms of personal leave.

“The Mondelez decision didn’t have a major impact on the transport industry because it mostly operates on a set period of hours plus overtime rather than shift arrangements.”

Enterprise Bargaining (EB) agreements was the next topic addressed by Ryan, who said the average requested increase over about 15 submissions was around 1.5 to 1.7 per cent.

“Interestingly, there were several EB agreements in the system with generous redundancy provisions amounting to three weeks per year of service capped at 52 weeks, which I recall was a rate established among the major transport companies in the 1970s and ‘80s,” said Ryan – adding that this suggested there was concern among employers that the Covid situation would lead to more redundancies.

Ryan also mentioned that JobKeeper and JobSeeker provisions had been extended to March 2021, albeit with shrinking entitlements, but said there hadn’t been a lot of transport companies claiming these benefits because “if your revenue is down by 30 per cent you’re probably out of business anyway”.

He said there had been unpaid pandemic leave inserted for a while in the transport industry, but this had expired on 28 June.

“This means leave taken is essentially unpaid unless the employee is directed by the employer to take leave, in which case it should be paid leave.”

Ryan also unpacked the five IR working groups the Federal Government has established: Casuals, Award simplification, Enterprise agreement making, Compliance & Enforcement and Greenfields agreements.

“The aim of these working groups is to discuss potential productivity and flexibility improvements that will form the basis of the next round of IR amendments which will probably come early next year on the downslide out of this Coronavirus situation,” said Ryan.

On the matter of minimum pay rates, Ryan said the Fair Work Commission handed down its Annual Wage Review stating an increase of 1.75 per cent ($13 per week/ 35 cents per hour) for those on award rates of pay. For transport workers the increase will take effect from 1 November. 

Ryan appeared dismissive of any benefits, perceived or otherwise, that would come from Award simplification.

“I’ve been in this space for about 40 years and seen Award simplification get a run at the start of every decade,” he said. “Interestingly there are now 2020 awards that applied from 4 May this year that are meant to be simplified versions of the 2010 awards, despite being 10 to 15 pages longer.”

He described the Enterprise agreement making process as a broken system, stating that a lot of the Fair Work Commission decisions seem to be toward preventing bargaining from occurring.

Referring to Compliance & enforcement, Ryan said roughly three major compliance issues are raised weekly where major companies haven’t complied with their award obligations.

As for Greenfield agreements, Ryan suggested these are reasonably rare in transport as not a lot of new ‘greenfield’ sites are established in this industry.

These webinars also saw the National Heavy Vehicle Chief Engineer provide a Performance-Based Standards (PBS) update, while another presentation focused on tanker standards information relevant to the Dangerous Goods (DG) supply chain.

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