AEU members at disability service Mambourin have taken a bold stand to protect their agreement. Two months ago, Mambourin applied to the Fair Work Commission (FWC) to terminate its Collective Enterprise Agreement (EBA) in favour of the award, which would have led to an immediate reduction in wages and conditions for its employees, just before Christmas.
The collective action of AEU and HACSU members has put the brakes on the application, meaning Mambourin cannot legally make changes to staff conditions or make any moves to terminate the agreement before an FWC hearing due in February 2020.
The AEU held a number of meetings with members, informing them of the entitlements at risk should Mambourin succeed in terminating the negotiated agreement in favour of the award.
The union was also able to highlight errors in the presentations the service made to its employees, including suggestions that their wages would not decrease under the changed arrangements. Mambourin was also seeking to reduce sick leave by five days and annual leave by two weeks per year, along with a reduction in long service leave (despite this being unlawful).
The service has blamed a lack of NDIS funding, arguing that it would struggle to remain financially viable in meeting the terms of the current EBA, despite a rise in funding of 22%. Mambourin claims to have investigated all other avenues for saving money but could not provide any evidence of this.
The service has also said it can’t afford to give employees the required time for administrative duties. Despite the new NDIS pricing guide confirming that these are billable hours, staff were not aware that they are entitled to paid administrative time to write up their case notes. This presents a serious health and safety risk to both clients and staff members, with case notes covering vital information such as behavioural issues or changes in client medications.
During the dispute, more than 90 union members signed the Majority Support Petition for a new agreement, and AEU membership at the service has grown by 40%.
This puts the union in a much stronger position to negotiate a fair agreement for Mambourin staff that respects the important work of professionals in the disability sector.
The action of members means Mambourin cannot seek to terminate the agreement – and conditions will remain in place – until at least February, when the Fair Work Commission is due to conduct its hearing into the case.