How to get an Enterprise Agreement
Friday 27th November 2009
Collective bargaining between employers and employees, represented by unions, is the main way to get pay increases and better conditions. Heres how to use bargaining to win better pay and conditions.
The new name for a Union Collective Agreement is an ‘Enterprise Agreement’. An Enterprise Agreement means employees bargain collectively with their employer with the assistance of their union.
Enterprise Agreements must include:
- provision for consultation in the event of major workplace change and representation for employees in that consultation;
- a flexibility clause with safeguards;
- a dispute resolution process, which must be conducted by an independent party (eg Fair Work Australia) and must allow employees to be represented.
Enterprise Agreements must be a maximum length of four years.
Enterprise Agreements can include content such as:
- pay increases;
- processes to set nursing workloads;
- qualification and other allowances;
- paid time off to participate in union education;
- union participation in consultation or dispute settlement procedures;
- paid parental leave;
- anything else that nurses want to improve their working conditions.
Steps to negotiating an Agreement
- All members can have a say.
An NSWNA representative at your workplace needs to talk to members to hear what members want in the Agreement. If your employer owns more than one facility, contact the others and build a network of nurses.
- Determine your claims for an Agreement.
It is important your claims are formulated through surveys or meetings of members and are relevant to your workplace. NSWNA can give you a copy of our recommended claims for your sector.
- Meetings of members need to be held to endorse the claims.
A log of claims should be formulated and voted on by members. If agreed, the Association will initiate bargaining with your employer.
- Negotiations need to be genuine.
It is important to keep notes to prove that genuine bargaining has been attempted or has occurred.
- What happens when a proposed Agreement is reached.
A copy of the proposed Agreement will be provided to the relevant employees to consider for a minimum period of seven days. After this time, a vote of the affected employees will take place. If the majority of those who vote approve the proposed agreement, it is submitted for approval to Fair Work Australia.
Dealing with difficult employers
The new Fair Work laws require both employers and unions to act in good faith. This means:
- If your employer refuses to bargain for an agreement and the majority of nurses and staff can prove they want an agreement, the NSWNA can help you to apply for a ‘majority support determination’. If you are successful, your employer, by law, must start negotiating with the Association.
- Unions and employers must:
- attend and participate in meetings at reasonable times;
- disclose relevant information (other than commercial-in-confidence or commercially sensitive information) in a timely manner;
- respond to proposals in a timely fashion;
- give genuine consideration to the proposals of other parties, and provide reasons for responses;
- refrain from capricious or unfair conduct that undermines freedom of association or collective bargaining.
If your employer fails to do this, the Union can ask Fair Work Australia to issue a bargaining order.
To get an Enterprise Agreement, call the NSWNA
If you do not have an agreement at your workplace, or your current agreement is about to expire, the first step is to call the NSWNA on 1300 367 962 for advice and assistance in bargaining with your employer.
Start preparing now
- Ask your colleagues to join the Union so you will be in a stronger bargaining position.
- Arrange a meeting of interested nurses and have a plan to make sure as many employees as possible are union members. Remember to include casuals.
- Form a workplace union committee to develop a list of issues that are important to nurses – issues you would like dealt with in an Agreement. Call the NSWNA office to get some tips on how to go about this.
Under the new work laws, your employer must:
- advise you of your right to have a bargaining representative, which is the NSWNA – unless you personally nominate otherwise;
- recognise and bargain with the NSWNA.