Australian Services Union members at Melbourne-based not-for-profit the Brotherhood of St Laurence (BSL) stopped work today for a better enterprise agreement.
The agreement covers more than 1100 staff, about 80 per cent women, working across NDIS, aged care, early childhood, migrant services, financial education, research and admin.
Negotiations have been dragging on for about 12 months. Last year, BSL won a non-union ballot for a six-month agreement that offered a below-inflation pay rise and no improvements to conditions. This agreement ended in December.
Now workers are demanding pay rises of inflation plus 2 per cent, reduced workloads, 30 days’ gender affirmation leave per year, additional leave entitlements for Indigenous staff, reproductive leave, payment of super on unpaid parental leave and enforceable disability employment targets.
Under pressure from the union, management has offered pay rises of 5 per cent this year, 4 per cent in 2024 and 3 per cent in 2025. BSL also agreed to remove references to “primary” and “secondary” carers in the agreement and provide 12 weeks’ paid parental leave for either parent. And the union has won a commitment to three days’ cultural leave per year.
But with CPI running at 7 per cent a year and the “employee living cost index” even higher at 9.6 per cent, BSL’s offer is a real pay cut.
As part of protected industrial action ASU members plan to boycott internal audits and training, refuse to complete eligibility reassessments for NDIS participants, and write campaign slogans on company cars and outside offices. About 80 members held a two-hour stopwork meeting on Tuesday 16 May.
BSL is one of the largest not-for-profits in Victoria. A win at the Brotherhood will set a benchmark for others in the sector.
Union membership is growing rapidly as the campaign ramps up. In April, BSL recorded the highest monthly ASU membership growth out of any employer in the social and community services sector.
In the middle of bargaining BSL announced unpopular changes like closing offices and merging roles in the NDIS division, which has increased workers’ willingness to fight.
Management claims that they can’t give workers any more than what is already on offer. But at the same time an internal strategy document claims that, “The organisation has a strong balance sheet and an asset base that can be better leveraged.” BSL’s latest financial report recorded an $82 million accumulated surplus.
Escalating industrial action including strikes can make the Brotherhood give workers what they deserve.
By an ASU member