Australian Broadcasting Corporation employees are escalating a dispute with management over wage rises and working conditions, lodging two separate requests with the Fair Work Commission that ultimately will allow them to strike.
The unions which represent ABC staff – the Community and Public Sector Union and Media Entertainment and Arts Alliance – are filing applications for a protected action ballot, which will allow union members to take industrial action such as work restrictions, bans and strikes as they continue to fight management over a new enterprise agreement.
MEAA and CPSU members overwhelmingly rejected a proposed agreement from ABC management late last year, which included a 3 per cent wage increase and changes to some working conditions.
ABC management could face strike action in a matter of months if it does not come to an agreement with staff.Credit:Steven Siewert
The CPSU’s ABC section secretary, Sinddy Ealy, said staff were sick of management “crying poor” and expecting staff to make financial sacrifices.
“If the ABC cannot pay staff wages that keep up with the cost of living, then that is a problem they should be raising with the federal government,” Ealy said. “The solution to that issue is not to turn around and ask staff to continuously accept sub-inflation pay rises that leaves them and their families struggling to keep up with the cost of living.”
The MEAA, which represents editorial staff members, will file a separate application on Thursday. “ABC staff delivered a resounding ‘no’ vote last year when management insisted on putting forward an insulting and inferior offer,” MEAA Media’s director, Cassie Derrick, said.
“The ABC has been running on a business model of overwork, underpay and systemic inequality for a long time, but now there is an opportunity for a fresh approach by management under a government that has already provided more funding for the ABC after years of cuts.”
The national broadcaster last year received an $83.7 million increase in operational funding and a $32 million boost for international services as part of the federal government’s budget. The government is also moving from a three-year to five-year funding model.
Posters inside the ABC’s Ultimo headquarters last year.
ABC managing director David Anderson said at the time that the extra money would be used to improve investment in local programming, emergency broadcast services, which have been crucial over the past few years with floods and bushfires across Australia, and coverage in the Pacific region.
The ABC staff’s most recent request was for a 6 per cent wage rise annually for three years and 15.4 per cent in superannuation. Journalists also asked for automatic progression each year, flexible working arrangements and a racial and gender pay gap audit, all of which the broadcaster rejected. The list also includes a solution for the absence of buyouts, a system which previously gave staff a higher fixed base salary instead of allowances and penalty rates for overtime.
The ABC has agreed to overtime measures and provisions for families. Sources close to management said last year that any dramatic increase in wages would impact this investment and could lead to the loss of hundreds of jobs.
The ABC was approached for comment.
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