||Issue No. 309||02 June 2006|
When the Truth Hurts
Interview: Rock Solid
Industrial: Eight Simple Rules for Employing My Teenage Daughter
Politics: The Johnnie Code
Energy: Fission Fantasies
History: All The Way With Clarrie O'Shea
International: Closer to Home
Economics: Taking the Fizz
Unions: Stronger Together
Review: Montezuma's Revenge
Poetry: Fair Go Gone
The Locker Room
Warehouse Pushes the Envelope
The threat was delivered as the federal court ruled employers could make promotion, and even employment, conditional on signing individual agreements.
A letter from law firm Baker and McKenzie on behalf of the company, Esselte Australia, alleges Mark Cochrane broke industrial relations laws by applying "duress to an employer or an employee in connection with an AWA".
The NUW (National Union of Workers) organiser had spoke to meetings of Esselte employees during lunch breaks about AWAs the company was offering compared to the collective agreement.
Cochrane said workers were getting a glossed-over explanation of the AWA from the employer.
"A lot of them didn't understand what they stood to lose," he said.
Under the AWA, Esselte could dodge overtime loadings by averaging hours over a 12-month period.
The condition would allow the employer to force workers to work extended hours during busy periods without paying overtime.
The AWA also seeks to strip rostered days off, union picnic days, meal allowances, afternoon and paid meal breaks - leaving workers on a base rate of $36,338 a year.
Cochrane said Esselte had pressured workers to sign the AWAs.
"From my understanding no-one has signed the AWA - except one," Cochrane said.
"(Esselte) are actually helping me recruit from the site."
Esselte lawyers also alleged Cochrane had threatened not to represent employees who signed AWAs, and had flagged media attention to the dispute.
They also claimed their had been suggestions Esselte trucks would be held up at other sites.
Cochrane shrugged off the claims, saying they were ridiculous.
Esselte is owned by the US-based JW Childs Corporation, which has an annual turnover of $US1.5 billion.
The federal court, meanwhile, has ruled that the object of the Howard government's Workchoices legislation was not to prevent "pressure being exerted on an employee'.
Justice Madgwick said, for illegitimate pressure to arise, an offer of employment contingent on signing an AWA was insufficient.
He found a landscaping company did not apply "duress" although a worker claimed he had been denied a promotion, and increased earnings, because he would not sign an AWA.
In essence, Justice Madgwick ruled the groundsman had been offered a choice.
"In short," he said, "the proposal equated to presenting a choice between the applicant having the promotion if he signed the AWA, or not getting that promotion if he did not."
Justice Madgwick explained why denying someone employment if they wouldn't sign an AWA was not duress, like this:
"While pressure was being applied, it was not necessarily the employer who was applying it. Therefore, it would not be possible in such cases to sue the employer for duress.
"In such a case the employee is under pressure in connection with the AWA, but it is not the employer who has applied it."
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