Union's call centre standards unworkable: employer group

The new charter and standards code for call centres which was developed by the Australian union alliance -- Call Central -- advocates conditions that are "unworkable" according to the Australian Industry (AI) Group.

Labelling it a code "dreamt up by unions" AI Group principal executive adviser, Steve Smith said the key areas of concern are union rights, breaks and penalty rates.

He said the Call Central 10-point charter and minimum standards code, which the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) cordinated, and which has the support of the government of three states, is not "consistent" with the flexible working conditions companies typically apply within the industry.

These issues are also being discussed with the Australian Services Union (ASU) which is proposing a federal award for the contracted call centre industry.

"The call centre industry in Australia is very much under attack from international competition. Therefore, to ensure the continued rapid growth of the industry the terms and conditions of the proposed award need to be appropriate."

Smith said the Industrial Relations Commission recognised that a dispute (with regards to the proposed award) was in existence in August last year. Since that time the AI Group has been negotiating with the ASU, guided by a working party of employers involved in the case.

"The majority of provisions [in the proposed award] have been agreed upon. However, there are still a couple of significant areas that have to be worked through, such as the classification of jobs, wage and penalty rates, and break and rest points."

Smith said if an agreement on these issues were to be reached, then there was "every possibility" that the award would get up. "But if the union is not prepared to accept the flexibility that companies within the industry need, then the negotiations could drag on."

The ASU told Computerworld last week that it expects to "tie up" the award by the end of the year.

Smith said the group will oppose the other award being proposed by the Community and Public Sector Union (CPSU) to cover the telecommunications industry, including new entrants to the sector.

The preliminary stages of the award are being heard in the Industrial Relations Commission in Melbourne on May 7 and 8.

"We will be representing 11 companies and are opposing the concept of the award and the CPSU's right to have an award within the private sector. We also believe there are eligibility issues," Smith said. "There is a very long way to go before this award has a chance of succeeding."

Stephen Jones, assistant secretary for CPSU communications, said the eligibility issues were "nonsense" as the union already has several awards in the private sector.

"They are just trying to hold the process up because the longer they can delay it, the more money they save employers. They have told us privately that they know they will ultimately lose," Jones said

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