||Issue No. 280||09 September 2005|
The Perfect Storm
Interview: Polar Eclipse
Industrial: Wrong Turn
Unions: Star Support
Workplace: Checked Out
Economics: Sold Out
Politics: Green Banned
History: Potted History
International: Curtain Call
Review: Little Fish
Poetry: Slug A Worker
The Locker Room
What Poor People?
STOP PRESS: Bank Pinged
The Finance Sector Union has won a Federal Court judgment to stop the Commonwealth Bank from transferring employees into a different company to be employed on individual contracts.
In his ruling, Justice Merkel described as "essentially an industrial regulation avoidance scheme, (which) possesses an ingenuity that is reminiscent of the tax avoidance schemes of the 1970s".
The dispute arose out of a decision by the CBA in May 2002 to establish CommSec as the future employer of employees to be employed under individual contracts in the Premium Financial Services division of the bank.
The move would have forced several hundred employees to resign and accept new positions with substandard conditions, according to FSU national Assistant Secretary Sharon Caddie.
"The bank was attempting to alter job parameters, and reduce conditions, for hundreds of staff in a dodgy sleight of hand," she said.
In a decision handed down this afternoon in the Federal Court, Justice Merkel found that the FSU had made out its claim that the bank discriminated against its employees by making it a condition that they resign from the Commonwealth Bank to take up positions in the Premium Banking division.
He also found that the failure to consult with the FSU about that decision breached its obligations under the certified agreement. He also found that the agreement the bank made with its call centre staff, intended to cover its managers, was invalid and that ComSec appeared to have misled the AIRC when it applied for the agreement to be certified.
Ms Caddie said the decision should send a clear message to employers that the rights of union member employees would be protected by the courts.
"The bank tried to force its employees onto individual agreements with no clear limits on hours of work, reduce their leave, and retrenchment entitlements and allowed the bank to reassign employees to other roles within its related companies," she said.
Anne Gooley, Industrial Principal at Maurice Blackburn Cashman, said the decision was a victory for union members. "The court has found that the use of a wholly owned subsidiary to employee labour to avoid award and agreement relations was not on," she said.
"The judge found that CommSec mislead the AIRC when it applied to certify its new agreement with these employees," she said.
The court will reconvene on 14 October for a penalty hearing.
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