Mr Cullinan is still opposed to the current agreement, but says the union`s issues expressed in April have not been resolved because of a employment security clause. The Fair Work Commission has approved the new enterprise agreement for the Big W discount department store, which will have about 16,000 employees across Australia. Big W`s old enterprise contract was launched in 2012 and expired in 2015. The clause in Big W`s 2012 EBA prevented workers from being forcibly dismissed when branches were closed. It was withdrawn by the department store in the new agreement, which approved 92 percent of workers in March. Mr. Boyce gave no reason to accept Big W`s approval and said he would publish his argument “in due course.” Under the new enterprise agreement, Big W employees will be paid between $21.51 and $23.12 per hour, depending on their seniority. Gerard Boyce, vice-president of the FWC, gave the green light to the agreement, which will also offer annual wage increases to Big W employees, better penalty interest, home and family vacations and an entrenched occasional conversion clause. The new agreement provides for above-average wages and conditions, with annual wage increases, penalties, increased casual charges, the choice of superannuation providers and increased rights to severance pay.
The Big W agreement allows employees to designate each fund of their choice. If there is no appointment, the company deducts super-payments in REST. The agreement will enter into force seven days after approval and will have a nominal expiry date of May 5, 2022. The proposed agreement will not have any lags that, until now, allowed two teams to work in one day with less than ten hours break between stations. Now there must be a 12-hour break (or 10 hours by appointment) between the conclusion of a position and the start of the next position. This means that, in some stores, the current practice of using splitting layers is no longer permitted. The agreement stipulates that Big W employees can name their preferred supernuation fund, but if they don`t, the default fund would be the remaining industrial fund. The kmart agreement, which the Commission rejected earlier this month, stated that employees had to transfer their superannuation payments to REST. Kmart`s decision prompted large companies to reconsider how they will approach standard superannuation in enterprise agreements, while the government has announced that it will re-examine the problem.
Athena Koelmeyer, an expert on labour law and director of Workplace Law, said the Commission had made it clear that agreements that require the election of superfunds would not pass. A recommendation from the Productivity Committee in January prompted the government to introduce new legislation to eliminate default funds in bonuses and enterprise agreements. “With the support of [Shop, Distributive and Allied Employees` Association] and [Australian Workers` Union], we have presented an agreement that provides better terms for our team while supporting the continuation of our company`s trend reversal,” said a Big W spokesperson. The Commission rejected Kmart`s decision and stated that, overall, staff would be in a less favourable position, not least because the super-contributions had to be paid into REST, a fund supported by the retail union SDA, which was negotiating the agreements with Kmart and Big W. A Big W spokesperson said the company was pleased that the FWC had accepted the agreement and said it “presented improved conditions for our team while supporting the continued rotation of our business.” “[Kmart`s agreement] is limited to the choice of super-insurance fund that would otherwise exist under price is a less advantageous mandate,” said Vice-President Amanda Mansini at the time.