NUW-Toll dispute stokes concerns within ALC ranks

ALC boss concerned NUW-Toll dispute shows a return to pattern bargaining

NUW-Toll dispute stokes concerns within ALC ranks
NUW-Toll dispute stokes concerns within ALC ranks
By Brad Gardner July 17, 2012

Australia’s top transport and logistics lobby group has weighed into the stoush involving Toll and the National Union of Workers (NUW), claiming it shows pattern bargaining is making a return.

Australian Logistics Council (ALC) Managing Director Michael Kilgariff has leapt to the side of Toll, brandishing the NUW’s strike outside a Toll-operated warehouse in Melbourne "intimidating and dangerous".

Coles owns the warehouse and has outsourced the work to Toll. The NUW wants Toll workers to receive the same wages and conditions as Coles employees at other sites.

"What applies in one workplace need not necessarily apply in another workplace, be it a similar format or not," Kilgariff says.

"Pattern bargaining seems to be assuming a greater priority in these negotiations when it was really an issue that was done away with quite some time ago.

"The whole issue of pattern bargaining gets away from what’s the most appropriate employment conditions for that particular workforce."

The Fair Work Act does not permit pattern bargaining, which the Fair Work Ombudsman says involves a representative seeking common terms in agreements with employers.

While declining "to name names and companies", Kilgariff also accused unions of trying to exert greater control over the running of businesses, in terms of rostering and dictating what employees can and cannot do.

"I travel around the industry and talk to a lot of people and it’s a fairly consistent message that management do feel their prerogatives to run the business efficiently is being hindered by unnecessary interference which has got nothing to do with safety or wage rates," he says.

"Businesses must be able to manage their affairs in a way that is efficient, safe and strategically appropriate."

Kilgariff labelled the NUW’s actions of denying access to the Coles warehouse as evidence of "increased union militancy" in the industry and "bullying behaviour".

The Supreme Court of Victoria yesterday ordered the union and its members to stop blocking access to the warehouse, which has been the scene of a week-long strike.

The Australian Industry Group (Ai Group) released a statement following the court ruling, with CEO Innes Willox saying companies should not have to resort to court proceedings to get unions to comply with the law.

"Unions and workers have many rights and benefits under workplace laws, but they also have responsibilities. One such responsibility is to act lawfully," he says.

Toll says many of its employees want to return to work and that the company is offering wages above the relevant Award rate.

Toll and Coles are members of the ALC, which also counts Woolworths, Asciano, Qantas and Linfox among its membership.

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