Inside EB7: seven steps to agreement

It can take a long time to come up with a certified agreement. In the case of EB6, for example, getting from the development of a log of claims to the finalisation of the agreement took 18 months and a round of stoppages.

So as we embark on the latest enterprise bargaining process, EB7,  what can we expect the next few months to bring?

Here are some of the milestones we can expect to pass on our way to a new agreement.

Development of the log of claims

The QTU commenced the development of its log of claims for EB7 in June last year.  The claim was the result of a process of membership consultation culminating in reports to Executive and Council.  The final log of claims was endorsed by November Council.

Request to commence bargaining

The QTU wrote to DET and the relevant ministers to request a commencement to bargaining in December 2011.  The first meeting of the single bargaining unit was held on 3 February.

Negotiations

Negotiations are likely to be hampered by the 2012 state election.  With a caretaker government in place, no significant agreements can be reached.  During negotiations, it is a legislative requirement that a formal intention to bargain be provided to the department by 1 April – three months before the nominal expiry date of the current agreement.

Peace obligation period

Legislation also requires a peace obligation period to be served prior to any industrial action taking place.  As the nominal expiry date of this agreement is 30 June 2012, if industrial action is necessary it cannot happen before 8 July.

Industrial action

The progress of the negotiations inform whether a ballot for industrial action is necessary.  If agreement can be reached prior to the nominal expiry date of the agreement, action may not be needed.  If agreement cannot be reached, however, members will be balloted on whether they support taking industrial action.

Arbitration

The QTU would prefer to reach an agreement with the government. However, arbitration occurs when:

  • one side of the negotiations asks the Queensland Industrial Relations Commission to assist in settling the dispute
  • the Queensland Industrial Relations Commission determines to intervene in the dispute in the public interest.

Whenever the QTU has ended up in arbitration it has been based on an application by the government to the industrial relations commission (1997, 2000, 2003, 2009). If EB7 needs to be arbitrated, it is highly unlikely that a result will be known by Christmas 2012.

Agreement

If an agreement is reached, the QTU will ballot members to determine whether they support the agreement.  Following this ballot, if members support the key outcomes of the negotiations, the agreement will be written and the government will ballot members.  In these circumstances, it can take up to three months from agreement to certification. However, it is at the discretion of the Minister to pay salary increases during this time period.

We will keep you informed of the progress of negotiations through regular updates, www.qtu.asn.au and at branch meetings.  The QTU is hopeful that a new agreement can be negotiated in a timely manner, however, this is subject to what, if anything, the government places on the negotiating agenda.

Kate Seed
Deputy General Secretary

Queensland Teachers' Journal, Vol 117 No 2, 16 March 2012, p17