Union in dispute with ABC over redundancy entitlements

MEAA lodges a dispute with Fair Work Commission over redundancy for staff who included part time service.

The Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance has lodged a dispute with the Fair Work Commission over ABC redundancy entitlements for staff who have previously worked part-time.

Up to 250 jobs are expected to have been cut once a redundancy process is complete, following a funding shortfall for ABC.

The Age reports more than a dozen ABC employees, who are not authorised to speak publicly, claim the dispute concerns an attempt by management to limit severance payouts.

The ABC’s current enterprise agreement states that retrenched workers are entitled to the equivalent of four weeks’ salary for each of their first five years of completed service, then three weeks’ salary for each subsequent year – capped at a maximum of 24 years.

Sources say that management is insisting upon pro rata reductions for any part-time service within this 24-year period.

“Women are much more likely to reduce their full-time employment to part-time when they have children,” said one staff member. “But many women also return to full-time work once their kids get older. To argue that these employees should be paid less for a few years of part-time service is absurd.”

ABC has issues a lengthy response (you can read here) which claims ABC’s method of calculating severance pay for employees who have periods of part-time service is consistent with the SBS and public service entities.

“The ABC pro-rates the entitlement for periods of part-time service, as occurs in the case of leave entitlements, and is consistent with clause 15.5.2 of the enterprise agreement, which states that “…other provisions of this Agreement that can apply to part-time employees will apply on a pro-rata basis …” it read.

“Were the ABC to rely only on the employee’s hours of service as at termination, it would disadvantage employees who may have had prior years of full-time service and only recently converted to part-time hours. Rather than only looking at the contracted hours at a point in time, the ABC considers the whole of the employee’s employment.”

It added, “In relation to the assertion about more senior women being made redundant, we have not received any individual complaints about age discrimination in this process. As a Commonwealth employer, the ABC is bound by the Age Discrimination Act, and takes any allegation of ageism and age discrimination in our workplace seriously.

“Certainly in our Expression of Interest process we did see a higher proportion of more senior employees opt for redundancy, which is to be expected as their tenure will result in increased severance entitlements.

“Further, in identifying redundant roles, we did lose a number of senior positions, which were inevitably looked at in the context of identifying cost savings, as well as workforce planning to ensure we had the right mix of senior and junior positions to fulfil the needs of the organisation. We will continue to have discussions with the unions about any concerns around ageism in the redundancy process and if specific instances are raised we will of course look into that decision.”

Over the past year ABC back-paid $11.9 million owed to 1828 workers, all of whom were employed casually, as part of an enforceable undertaking with the Fair Work Ombudsman.

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