Never mind the 20% profit rise

Joanna Sheldon cjs10 at
Tue Aug 29 22:36:11 PDT 2000

So much for the common wealth.

Burf! Jo


SMH, 30 Aug '00

Union bypassed in bank's offer to 28,000

By BRAD NORINGTON, Industrial Editor

The Commonwealth Bank has launched a major assault on union power by

offering individual contracts to all of its 28,000 workforce and rebuffing

union negotiators.

It is the largest single offer of non-union contracts by an Australian company

using the Federal Government's 1996 laws - and the first concerted attempt

by one of the four major banks to spread them to all employees.

Faced with no prospect of agreement with the bank, the new leadership at

the ACTU is treating it as a symbolic fight with implications for many major


It believes the other major banks and many large companies employing

white-collar workers will be sure to follow the lead if the union cause is lost.

According to the Commonwealth, the bank decided to resort to non-union

contracts - known as Australian Workplace Agreements - only after the

Finance Sector Union refused to accept a final wage offer.

The union is seeking a 13 per cent pay rise over two years, changes to

performance bonuses and assurances over staffing levels.

But the bank's final offer is for 6.5 per cent over two years and bonuses that

would give workers a total wage rise averaging 4 per cent a year.

The bank's deputy general manager of group human resources, Mr John

Matthews, rejected union claims that the bank was seeking to de-unionise

its workforce. He said the bank wanted to deal directly with its employees

without having "a third party involved".

The bank's final offer to the union remains on the table until tomorrow but

will be withdrawn after that so individual contracts can be sent to workers.

Mr Matthews said the contracts would mirror the terms of the

Commonwealth's final offer "in this round, but subsequent individual

contracts could involve changes to hours of work and wage packages that

calculated a total costing for employees' entitlements".

The dispute has come to a head on the eve of today's announcement by the

Commonwealth of its latest annual profit, widely expected to rise by 20 per

cent to $1.7 billion.

Staff will join protests outside the bank's Sydney headquarters this morning

to coincide with the profit result and stop-work meetings will be held around

the country on Friday to consider industrial action.

The ACTU president, Ms Sharan Burrow, said many bank employees were

underpaid and suffered great stress. They were understaffed and required to

work unpaid overtime to complete their workloads.

Ms Burrow said the salary of the managing director, Mr David Murray, was

out of proportion with those of bank tellers. He received $1.9 million and a

33.5 per cent pay rise last year, as well as pocketing $4 million from share

options this year.

"We say, don't sign a contract, don't accept an intimidatory offer that is

below what you are worth," Ms Burrow said.

"It's about de-unionisation. It's about making conditions worse."

(For non-Aussies, SMH = Sydney Morning Herald, ACTU = Australian Council of Trade Unions)

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