Fight for jobs stalls—now Sensis want to police behaviour

Sensis has launched a new attack on its workers, with management proposing to introduce a new behaviour based pay system.

Sensis management are confident to go on the attack because they appear to be getting away with their outsourcing plan that would decimate the most unionised section of the company. Without AMWU officials backing an industrial strategy that could win, many workers have begun to give up and look for other jobs.

Sensis is counting on demoralisation to push through its behaviour pay plan.

That’s why a fighting response to this latest attack is so crucial.

The fight for jobs at Sensis must go on

HR says the new pay proposal will focus on, “both ‘what’ you’ve achieved as well as ‘how’ the work is performed”.

Performance pay is already divisive and unfair. But allowing performance to be assessed against such subjective measures as acting, “in a way that promotes Sensis behavioural expectations” would give management a tool to attack union organisation, and erode wages and rights.

It would be a green light for discrimination against union activists, or anyone management doesn’t like. It would mean a return to an atmosphere of bullying and petty tyranny that union members have fought hard to change over the years.

Workers will still be measured on productivity and quality. But even if workers hit the top productivity measure, but are judged to be only “partially meeting behavioural expectations”, they will get a 1 per cent pay rise (an effective pay cut) instead of 5 per cent otherwise.

Staff can’t be marked up for “behaviour” or “leadership”, only down. It is a system designed for punishment.

The proposal is intended to be implemented in three weeks, and the AMWU has not been give paid time to consult its members. The AMWU is going to Fair Work as a result, and a clause in our agreement gives Fair Work the power to arbitrate disputes.

It would be great if Fair Work throws a spanner in Sensis’ works, but we can’t rely on that. The stronger our response the better the chance of stopping the new pay system.

Jobs fight

The last mass meeting at Sensis to deal with the outsourcing was down in numbers from around 130 to 45. Morale is down for several reasons. It was hit when solidarity organised for the AMWU rally against 457 visas (which was not a fight for jobs) did not materialise at the second Sensis rally.

It has been hit because an argument for a longer strike has not been won, and so a clear strategy that appears capable of winning has not been adopted. AMWU officials have constantly emphasised doubts about waging a longer strike rather than try to build members’ confidence to fight.

Sensis workers voted to call on other Telstra unions and Trades Hall to organise a Telstra-wide delegates meeting. Delegates organised a meeting with Sensis CPSU delegates and have been invited to speak to CEPU members’ meetings, but the Telstra wide delegates meeting has not eventuated. AMWU officials have done nothing to try and make this plan a reality.

The Greens’ parliamentary amendment to force Sensis to do the work in Australia raised faint hopes, and was a tribute to members’ campaigning, but hasn’t turned things around.

The Greens amendment will be voted on by 27 June, yet the ALP says it is still “considering its position”.  The ALP is currently facing electoral wipe out, but their commitment to the free market and fear of getting business offside gets in the way of doing things that might boost their support, such as backing a fight for jobs.

The same timidity saw the ALP give in to the big mining companies over the mining tax. Elsewhere they have used racist rhetoric against foreign workers on 457 visas, saying they will “put local workers first”. But that won’t create or protect jobs. Here, where the ALP could save actual jobs, it has so far refused to act.

The AMWU will send a delegation of Sensis workers to Canberra for the vote. Labor MPs Bill Shorten and Stephen Conroy both indicated support for Sensis workers. But if the ALP won’t give a clear commitment before the vote, we should organise a protest at Conroy’s office to put further pressure on them.

If the vote goes down, a strategy aimed at stopping the Yellow and White Pages coming out before the jobs go in November could still succeed. However a strong fight against the new behaviour pay plan, which has already sparked anger, could also reinvigorate the fight for jobs.

By AMWU delegate at Sensis


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