Media Alliance takes Fairfax to Fair Work Australia
Wednesday, 24 October 2012
Yesterday the Media, Entertainment & Arts Alliance filed papers with Fair Work Australia notifying it of an “adverse action” claim after Fairfax Media sacked four union members at the Launceston Examiner. The four, who were made compulsorily redundant by the company on Monday October 8, had worked for the company for between three and six years.
The Media Alliance alleges the Examiner Newspaper division was in contravention of Section 340 and 346 of the Fair Work Act 2009 when it dismissed the four because they had engaged in industrial activities and exercised workplace rights including the making of complaints about their employment.
The incident came after negotiations for a new enterprise agreement broke down. Instead, the company drafted its own agreement offering wholly unsatisfactory pay and conditions. Indeed, since 2009 Examiner staff have had the worst redundancy provisions of any Fairfax division.
The four encouraged their colleagues to vote against the company’s plan. The company lost the vote by a margin of 3-to-1. (Subsequently, employees at the Launceston Examiner passed a resolution of no confidence in company management.)
Regardless, the Launceston Examiner suddenly announced redundancies as part of a new restructure: the implementation of a centralised sub-editing “hub” with the Burnie Advocate. The four, together with another five colleagues (all nine being Media Alliance members) offered to take a cut in hours in order to save jobs and ensure no redundancies would be required. Instead, the four were made compulsorily redundant and instantly dismissed.
Christopher Warren, federal secretary of the Media Alliance, says: “The Launceston Examiner is a rogue employer engaging in ruthless aggression against its own employees. All because its employees have stood up for their rights, rejected a cruel enterprise agreement and come with a smart plan to save their mates’ jobs by working fewer hours and ensuring the same cost savings without any redundancies,” he said.
“In retaliation, the company has not only summarily sacked these Media Alliance members but, by doing so, it aims to stack the next vote in its favour. And all the while, it is making top-notch specialist sub-editors redundant in a harsh Tasmanian job market,” Warren says.
“It’s important to remember that these Fairfax Media employees have been mistreated like none of their colleagues. After a hard winter when more than 300 editorial staff took redundancies at the Sydney Morning Herald, The Age and the Canberra Times and where not one person was made compulsorily redundant or forced to leave the same day, in Launceston we have seen this shameful aggression from the Examiner. Fairfax has left us with no choice but to stand up on behalf of our members and take the Examiner to Fair Work Australia,” Warren said.
The Fairfax Media annual general meeting takes place today (Wednesday, October 24 2012), at the Park Hyatt in Melbourne from 10.30am. “Today, Fairfax shareholders may grant CEO Greg Hywood a cash bonus of $420,000 and rights valued at $333,548. That will take his 2011-2012 salary to $2.3 million,” Warren says. “How can Greg Hywood justify this one arm of Fairfax behaving in such a despicable fashion towards its employees? It’s not smart, it’s stupid. And after such a harsh winter of cutbacks and redundancies, surely Greg Hywood knows it’s time for every Fairfax employee to be allowed to work smart.”