This week the Fair Work Commission has found the pandemic, or the general or economic consequences of the pandemic, are not legitimate reasons for employers to refuse to continue workplace bargaining.
United Workers Union, the union for food manufacturing workers, has won an application against one of Australia’s leading bread manufacturers Davies Bakery.
The bakery makes bread, hot cross buns and other baked goods for ALDI, Woolworths and Coles.
United Workers Union Food and Beverage National Director Susie Allison said: “The Fair Work Commission has ruled in favour of the United Workers Union and our members’ right to bargain and organise.
“Davies Bakery has been paying substandard wages and conditions to their predominantly migrant workforce.
“The workers have joined the union and are exercising their collective right to bargain for industry-level wages and conditions. Davies has tried to undermine workers’ right to bargain every step of the way.
“Let this be a clear message to employers who are trying to use the pandemic as an excuse to avoid bargaining with their workers or allowing their workers to organise.
“Employers are not entitled to simply pull out of or refuse to bargain with Unions. The good faith bargaining rules under the Act still apply.”
United Workers Union has enterprise bargaining agreements with Davies’ main bread making competitors – Tip Top, Goodman Fielder and Arytza.
In late 2019 the Fair Work Commission made a majority support determination against Davies Bakery. In effect ordering them to have enterprise bargaining negotiations with the Union.
These negotiations began in late 2019 and continued until the end of February 2020. In March, the company effectively pulled out of bargaining, citing the COVID-19 pandemic as its excuse.
They refused the Union’s efforts to arrange meetings during April and May, so the United Workers Union submitted a good faith bargaining application requesting the company be ordered to resume negotiations.
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