ACTION staff put industrial pressure on government as talks reach 10 months

ACTION bus maintenance staff resorted to industrial pressure after 10-month-long negotiations for a new workplace agreement reached an impasse over allowances last week.

Eighty workers represented by the Australian Manufacturing Workers' Union decided on a weekend overtime ban that threatened to throw ACTION's bus timetable into disarray last Monday when bosses refused to back down from a move to scrap an allowance awarded for productivity gains.

ACTION bus maintenance staff took industrial action over protracted negotiations for a workplace deal last week.

Photo: Katie Burgess

Staff frustrated with the protracted negotiations over an enterprise agreement, replacing a previous deal that expired in mid-2017, also opposed a push for a trial that would expand workshop hours from 6am to 5am that the AMWU believed would not see workers fairly paid in return.

A paperwork ban, and restrictions on where panel beaters could move in their workshop, formed part of the protected industrial action from Wednesday to Friday last week.

After the government agreed to make their allowance permanent and withdrew its push for shift changes, workers stopped the action on Friday, but the Fair Work Commission on Wednesday this week granted an AMWU application to extend a 30-day period for protected industrial action.

Despite the Fair Work decision, the ACT government says workers have agreed not to take any further industrial action against Transport Canberra.

AMWU NSW secretary Steve Murphy said negotiations were progressing and described last week's industrial action as minor.

"It was lawful, and we believe it was effective," he said.

"The negotiations at ACTION Buses highlights the importance of the right to take industrial action, and its role in a constructive industrial relations process."

It is understood the AMWU met with ACT Transport Minister Meegan Fitzharris about the negotiations on Tuesday last week, however a spokeswoman for the minister would not detail what was discussed.

"The government was pleased to receive a commitment from maintenance staff to continue to work through the remaining issues of their EA without further industrial action, saving bus commuters from unnecessary disruption," she said.

"The final agreement will see a previous temporary industry allowance made permanent. The minister believes this is fair for workers.

"A proposal of an expansion of workshop hours from 6am to 5am was discussed as part of negotiations, but at this point in time it was agreed changes to shift arrangements were not warranted."

While Ms Fitzharris' spokeswoman could only say the new EA would be finalised in "coming months", the AMWU hopes it will be ready in up to six weeks.

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