AAE gives in; transporters put on notice

Freight transporters have been put on notice after Australian Air Express gave into union demands for significant wage rises

By Brad Gardner | November 25, 2010

Freight transporters have been put on notice after Australian Air Express gave into union demands for significant wage rises and new workplace commitments.

The air freight carrier, which was last week hit with a nationwide strike over stalled enterprise bargaining negotiations, yesterday agreed to a 14 percent wage increase for workers over three years.

AAE also agreed to open its books to the Transport Workers Union so it can scrutinise chain of responsibility systems and safety training programs.

"This deal will be a model for other agreements the TWU is pursuing on behalf of 35,000 workers in the transport sector and 15,000 aviation industry employees," a statement issued by TWU National Secretary Tony Sheldon says.

"It is a significant agreement. It does set a benchmark and a precedent."

The TWU is currently negotiating new enterprise agreements with the likes of Toll, Linfox and K&S Freighters to secure 8 percent pay rises over two years.

Sheldon also wants the companies to increase superannuation each year until it reaches 15 percent.

Under the agreement struck with AAE, the operator must consult the union before using external contractors.

It will also be limited in the number of casual and part-time employees it can use and must grant casuals the right to move to full-time work after one year with the company.

Following union claims that external contractors receive less pay them permanent workers, AAE has agreed to pay the same rates for any work performed at its facilities.

The Transport Workers Union originally sought a 16 percent wage increase, but agreed to three lots of 4.5 percent and an extra 0.5 percent for the final three months of the agreement.

Workers will receive the first 4.5 percent increase backdated to July 1 this year.

A statement posted by AAE on its website says it has reached "a mutually beneficial agreement" and that the industrial action was waged by a small group within its 2000-strong workforce.

During the strike, TWU delegate Billy Berka told ATN the union was prepared to wage another stoppage unless AAE agreed to wage increases.

Strikes were held at depots in Brisbane, Sydney, Canberra, Melbourne, Adelaide and Perth.

In an address to the Ai Group’s national conference earlier this year, Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) secretary Jeff Lawrence said unions were justified in pursuing higher wages and that employers could afford it.

"It’s clear that the Australian economy has emerged from the global recession in a better position than almost any other developed nation," Lawrence told the conference.

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