We were three fresh faces at the bargaining table - Nathan Groves, Sven Nicklason, and myself, Duane Smith - joined by the experienced delegate Adrian Hinds, ready to negotiate the EA Agreement at Boags Brewery.
Preparation began with member consultation, a broad plan for the list of claims, and an agreed figure for wage increases. We also had new members join our ranks to strengthen our cause.
Both parties met and exchanged their list of claims. The bulk of claims were relatively easy to work through, including administrative improvements for the structure and modernisation of the Agreement. With the changes to the LION yearly calendar, timeframes were adjusted to coincide, and so now the Agreement will span three years and five months.
The changes that the company wanted to introduce were based around operational flexibility. Amongst them was the desire for greater clarity around the operational 2-shift roster patterns through peak production, as well as an increase to the span of hours for the 2-shift pattern. This would optimise productivity, reach targets, meet customer expectations, and minimise the need for night shifts.
Additional clauses that members and delegates were able to successfully negotiate included:
- A consultation clause where the Company would need to consult the workers before they implement changes such as operational and roster changes or changes to the uniform.
- A domestic violence leave clause was added to our paid leave section.
- Paid leave was also made available to United Voice Council or Branch Executive to attend meetings
The biggest hurdle was agreeing on what were fair wage increases for the next 3 years and 5 months.
United Voice members had agreed on preferred increases, based on the average “dollar value” compared to other Lion Breweries. The proposed yearly increases were 4.5%, 4.0%, 4.0%, with the slightly higher first-year increase to compensate for the company’s earlier claim to unify wages across brewing and packaging.
The company's first wage offer was based on the current and local CPI, which would mean 2.75%, 2.1%, 2.1%. The reasoning behind this offer was the beer market decline and the subsequent decrease in our output of volume.
As both parties began to counter offer the company proposed to increase the percentage of our annual team bonus as a part of the “package” - as opposed to increasing their base wage offer. This would mean that we would receive a higher paid bonus based on the overall performance of the business. The offer now stands as a 2.75%, 2.1%, 2.1%, with a 1% increase to everybody’s annual bonus.
Based on this bonus push it was evident that the company was trying to introduce a culture of performance achievement - which we agreed had merit, but the bottom line wage increase was still unacceptable.
The members were again consulted and told of the company’s new agenda. Most agreed that the decline in market/volume left us on shaky ground and that a “roll over” of the same wage increase percentage from our previous Agreement would be our absolute bottom line. This being 2.75%, 2.75%, 3.0%. We knew as a collective that this probably would not be accepted. So after crunching some numbers, we set about to make a plan to present 2 proposals.
Proposal 1 was our above rollover figures without mention of a bonus increase. These figures were agreed by our members at the start of negotiations to be our “bottom line”.
Proposal 2 was to try and meet the company in the middle with a wage increase percentage AND a bonus increase. The figures were 2.8%, 2.5%, 2.5% plus a 1% increase in everyone’s yearly team bonus.
After some deliberation, proposal 2 was accepted by the Company.
Overall the United Voice membership feedback was positive and both parties were amicable and co-operative during the negotiation process. Key learnings from past negotiations built positive relationships between the company and the United Voice delegates and members. This was a defining factor in being able to reach an outcome for our new Agreement in just four meetings.