Cochlear workers will be relieved Fair Work Australia has upheld a series of good faith bargaining orders against the ear implant manufacturer in a decision handed down today, says the Australian Manufacturing Workers Union.
However, the Cochlear case exposes the failure of the Fair Work Act to require recalcitrant employers to genuinely negotiate with employees, said AMWU NSW Secretary Tim Ayres.
“Todayʼs decision validates the efforts of Cochlear workers over many years to reach a collective agreement with their employer, in line with Australian workplace laws and community values,” said Mr Ayres.
“Fair Work Australia has issued some reasonable orders that will progress bargaining at Cochlear. These include holding a series of bargaining meetings and providing opportunities for employees to meet with each other and with union representatives at work.
“We welcome these orders. However, this decision doesnʼt guarantee an outcome in bargaining, it doesnʼt compel Cochlear to come to the negotiating table in the spirit of reaching a deal.
“The Fair Work laws do not provide a remedy through last resort arbitration for employees, where the employer refuses to negotiate as weʼve seen over many years at Cochlear.” The Fair Work Review released yesterday recommended an option for compulsory arbitration in greenfields agreements on major resources projects.
“This means mining bosses would have access to arbitration when it suits them, however lowpaid employees in factories have none,” said Mr Ayres.
“I urge the Federal Government to look at this case very closely as they consider their response to the Fair Work review, and consider whether the Fair Work Act is delivering for the hundreds of workers at Cochlear.
“Cochlear workers have been trying to get a collective deal since 2007. They have repeatedly expressed their reasonable wish for union representation and a collective deal that offers security of employment and conditions.
“Itʼs time for Cochlear to stop its ideological grandstanding, come to the table and deal with its employees.
“If the company wonʼt do that, Cochlear workers deserve the backing of the law.”
• The current enterprise agreement covering Cochlear workers expired in June 2007
• Cochlear subsequently put forward two proposed non-union agreements, which were both rejected by workers
• Cochlear workers have voted on multiple occasions in support of a union collective agreement negotiated by the AMWU
• In 2009 Fair Work Australia issued a majority support determination, recognising the will of Cochlear workers to be represented in collective bargaining by the AMWU.