Clerical workers at The Age newspaper have gone on strike for the first time ever as part of enterprise bargaining agreement (EBA) negotiations. Workers from the contact centre, accounts and telesales protested outside the front of the new Fairfax building. Their handwritten signs revived the slogan from last year’s journalist strike, “Fair Go Fairfax.”
Fairfax offered a measly 2.25 per cent pay rise. As a result, the union reduced its wage demand from 4 per cent to 3 per cent. 3 per cent is less than these workers deserve, but Fairfax has still not budged.
Management also want to cap redundancy, remove a paid holiday and implement Labor’s model flexibility clause, which is compulsory under the new workplace laws. Well-organised workplaces can negotiate flexibility over the brand of coffee in the tearoom, but in weaker workplaces “flexibility” means an Australian Workplace Agreement (AWA) by another name. Fairfax bosses want to negotiate with individual workers to override the collective agreement.
Eighty per cent of workers voted to reject Fairfax’s offer. According to Australian Manufacturing Workers Union (AMWU) organiser Nadine Machlouch, Fairfax has come back with an even worse offer.
Christopher Leung, a delegate taking part in the EBA negotiations, said, “It’s been 12 months of non-negotiation. They expect clerical workers to fold, but we will keep taking action until they come back with a realistic offer.”
AWMU agreements with other groups of staff at Fairfax are due to be negotiated later this year. If Fairfax doesn’t significantly improve its insulting offer, there is the prospect of united solidarity action to force The Age to back down.
by Chris Breen

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