24 November 2020

Negotiations continue to try to avert another week of garbage strikes

| Dominic Giannini
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Garbage bins. Photo: Region Media.

Future garbage bin collection strikes are on the horizon for Canberrans. Photo: Region Media.

Negotiations over pay and conditions which could avert strike action are continuing between garbage collection company Suez and the drivers’ union, the Transport Workers Union (TWU). Both parties met yesterday with the Fair Work Commission (FWC) to try to find a solution to the six-month impasse.

The union is set to meet with its members tomorrow (25 November) when discussions will continue.

TWU ACT Secretary Klaus Pinkas said the union gave Suez “some things to think about” at their meeting on Monday (23 November).

Suez representatives also presented further options to the TWU in line with the FWC’s 18 November request that both parties reconsider their bargaining positions.

Both parties will meet with the commission again on 2 December.

Four days’ notice must be given before any industrial action, so the earliest day drivers could strike would be early next week. If drivers walk out again, it will be the fourth time in five weeks that some Canberra residents would miss out having their bins collected.

Mr Pinkas said the drivers had the support of the Canberra community.

“Garbos across the ACT have reported that the vast amount of feedback from local residents has been supportive. Drivers who work for Suez, picking up the bins in the ACT, are locals too. They work where they live,” Mr Pinkas said.

“In response to claims that garbos are being greedy, the TWU believes that it is a good idea that critical workers are well paid for the job they do. It is generally acknowledged that low wage growth is a problem in both the national and ACT economies.”

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However, Suez’s NSW General Manager of Collections and Logistics Paul Haslam says the company has been negotiating in good faith, going back to drivers with five different offers over the past six months.

Drivers received a 3.4 per cent pay rise this year, and Suez is offering a pay rise of 2 per cent in 2021, 3 per cent in 2022 and 3 per cent in 2023. The union wants 4 per cent each year.

The union is also negotiating for the restoration of a paid rest break after two hours of overtime and the better efficiency in managing matters taken to the human resources department.

Mr Haslam says that of the 2,500 employees the company has in Australia, some staff have not had an increase this year, while those on hourly rates have seen increases between 1 and 3 per cent.

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Capital Retro8:54 am 25 Nov 20

“Chris Vlahos Mr Pinkas continues to be paid while the drivers lose their pay while on strike”

I understand he is actually paid by the ACT Government and not the TWU.

“Mr Pinkas said the drivers had the support of the Canberra community.”

No-one I’ve spoken to supports this. In a time where we’ve all had to make sacrifices, this industrial action is just unreasonable. Can’t they just be replaced?

HiddenDragon6:47 pm 24 Nov 20

“the TWU believes that it is a good idea that critical workers are well paid for the job they do. It is generally acknowledged that low wage growth is a problem in both the national and ACT economies.”

There might have been a bit more justice in the first point in the days when garbos had to run, or at least trot, along behind the truck, and then hang on the outside in all weathers – things are a bit different now.

The second point is basically just a contemporary re-hash of the old wages arguments which ultimately boiled down to a question of which dog can/should chase its tail most quickly. It’s a mindset which got Australia into a lot of economic trouble, and which took a lot of sacrifice to get out of, in the days before the rest of the world started paying us ridiculous prices for the stuff which is dug out of the ground. We seem doomed to re-live that history.

Nicole Milne12:39 pm 24 Nov 20

I heard the truck this morning in Gordon, so fingers crossed when I get home, both bins have been emptied!

Mr Pinkas said the drivers had the support of the Canberra community.

Do they? Most people haven’t had a pay increase this a couple of years (non APS) and would be delighted to get 3.4% the year and 8% over the next 3 years.

Even the APS who have be getting 2% or less a year (after protracted negotiations) would be delighted with the deal offered by Suez.

Phill kirkham2:19 pm 24 Nov 20

Most people are either not in a union or are in a crap one. The TWU have always fought for its members. SUEZ has an on-going contract with the government and would have had employee wages and conditions and contingencies for increases factored into the tender process.

Employers want to pay the least amount possible and employees want to earn as much as possible, such is the nature of bargaining. The only bargaining tool employees have is the withdrawal of its labour.

Suez do not have an ongoing contract with the ACT government.

And yes, employees do have the right to negotiate but if they aren’t being reasonable, they also might find themselves unemployed.

Phill kirkham5:05 pm 26 Nov 20

Suez has a contract that commenced in 2013 and expires 2023, worth $180million. They have 5 other contracts worth around $12million.

An employee in the ACT cannot be terminated on the grounds that they are taking protected action. You cannot be made redundant for the same reason. If redundancies are legitimate, employees must be paid out all of their entitlements. Any incoming contractor could not deny a driver who worked for the previous contactor, a job, based on that employee taking protected industrial action with the previous contractor.

If SUEZ believes the employees’ demands are unreasonable, they can apply to the Fair Work Commission for dispute resolution. Subject to the terms of an existing enterprise agreement, this may include arbitration. The Commission can take into account, existing contracts, financial statements and other labour and commercial market forces.

Well the union are telling lies as usual, because I’ve seen barely anybody supporting this extortion for unreasonable pay rises.

Capital Retro9:46 am 24 Nov 20

Collections as usual in Tuggers this morning. Truck being driven by a smiling lady.

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