NEA Bargaining Meeting 11
The bargaining meetings continue! Read about what was discussed, and the upcoming bargaining timetable 📬
After a wild week, Apple has come back to the bargaining table for a further four bargaining meetings as outlined in the Fair Work Commission hearing. These meetings have been agreed to between Apple and the three unions involved in bargaining. You can find out more about the timetable at the end of this post.
Today’s meeting, the eleventh meeting so far, talked on meeting agenda and the topics that will be discussed as bargaining continues. It then delved deeper into points around leave and pay, as each union took the opportunity to respond to Apple’s responses to their claims. Details below!
Meeting scheduling, conduct, and agenda
Apple began the meeting by acknowledging the outcome of the Fair Work Commission hearing and reaffirmed its commitments to fair and good faith bargaining. It than began to list the benefits of the proposed NEA, in addition to the benefits that Apple provides.
Apple then moved onto address meeting conduct and behaviour, with Bernard Ryan (representing the ELR team), asking bargaining representatives to be respectful when using the chat in WebEx. Bernard acknowledged that many people were upset during the last meeting (when Apple initially announced the end to bargaining), but said that personal attacks are uncalled for in the chat. Michael Robson from the ASU asked Bernard to provide examples of disrespectful conduct. Bernard said that the record of the chat “stands for itself”. Michael reminded Bernard that the chat record was not shared with the bargaining representatives, and if he would like to raise any issues, that now would be the time to do so. Another bargaining representative added that it would be useful if examples or issues could be raised so as to educate everyone on what is deemed acceptable or unacceptable conduct. Bernard provided two examples of conduct that he found exception with: he was called a “liar”, and another instance where an expletive was used. Bernard again asked everyone to be respectful and be mindful of language used so as to allow effective bargaining.
Mr Robson called on another bargaining representative to speak on the conduct of the ELR team when delivering the ‘information sessions’ in sites across the country and virtually. The bargaining representative then made mention of the conduct of ELR team, including Bernard, causing distress among their colleagues. They asked the ELR team to consider their behaviour and potentially provide an apology. Bernard accepted this feedback.
Apple announced adjustments to the bargaining meeting schedule to accommodate requests made by team in Western Australia in relation to the daylight saving time adjustment.
Mr Robson then spoke on a proposed agenda to meetings, this was seconded by the SDA and RAFFWU. Individual bargaining representatives also expressed their support to this structure of meetings. A bargaining representative asked the ELR team if they were committed to considering changes to the current draft and that the time spent attending these meetings would not “waste” anyone’s time. Apple advised that they cannot predict the outcome of these meetings, but it was committed to bargaining.
Mr Robson then also raised a proposal to rotate the meeting chair to allow for a more equitable bargaining process; Apple indicated that they were interested to hear how other bargaining representatives felt on this issue, but prefaced by saying that it would have to think about it. Bargaining representatives broadly supported the notion of a rotating chair and it was put to a vote, with just over half of attendees agreeing with the proposal. Apple again said that it would have to think about this issue and would come back to representatives.
Apple’s response to employee bargaining representatives’ claims
Apple then began by going through its responses made to the unions and bargaining representatives as agreed to at the Fair Work Commission hearing.
Apple said that it was proud of its leave policies, noting that its current entitlements far exceed the National Employment Standards and other employers in the industry.
Apple addressed concerns that policies could be taken away from employees by saying that it is not something Apple has or intends to do.
Apple said that it’s compensation places it as one of the highest-paying retailers in Australia, and that it it exceeds industry standards by at least 17%. Apple also advised that at least three quarters of employees covered by the NEA are earning above the minimum rate of pay.
Apple also mentioned that it brought forward its regular annual wage increases for customer-facing roles to July of this year to ensure that team could receive wage increases sooner in light of changing market conditions.
Apple reminded bargaining representatives that the minimum increases to minimum rates of pay were not capped and are in addition to Apple’s yearly compensation review process.
Apple explained its approach to scheduling by saying while there may be certain deficiencies compared to the relevant award. But when looking at the full scope of the award including the higher rates of pay, Apple believes that its employees are better off than what they would received under the relevant award.
Apple then handed over to Mr Robson to allow the ASU to ask questions regarding the response from Apple.
Questions regarding Apple’s responses to claims
Mr Robson then proceeded to go through a series of questions:
Asking about the leave types that have been rejected by Apple, the ASU asked why it does not want to include these in the NEA. Apple explained that it believes that employees have sufficient access to leave, either in policy or in the EA, for any life event.
On the subject of bereavement leave for Indigenous peoples and their cultural obligations, Apple advised that it provides 10 days of bereavement leave for all employees.
Another bargaining representative mentioned that the existing bereavement leave policy doesn’t fully encapsulate the broad definition of ‘family’, often excluding non-blood-related or cultural family members.
Mr Robson then asked why Apple doesn’t want to include its various leave policies into the NEA. Apple responded by saying that it wants to leave the various leave types as policy to allow for greater flexibility to improve upon policy in the future.
Another bargaining representative highlighted the fact that Apple’s short-term disability policy, which it proposes to be used for gender affirmation leave, requires a team member to forgo pay for 30 days to qualify for salary continuance.
Another bargaining representative asked why Apple’s paid study leave does not apply to retail employees. Apple responded by saying that it will provide feedback to the benefits team.
Further concerns were raised around Apple not including certain policies in the EA and the inherent power imbalance between team and management that may cause team not be able to take advantage of policies and benefits because they’re not legal entitlements.
At this point, a 15 minute recess was taken.
Apple then resumed the meeting by confirming that it agreed with the agenda that was proposed by Mr Robson of the ASU. Apple disagreed with allowing others to chair the meeting, but acknowledged that some may believe Apple have spoken too much in meetings so will be working on allowing more people to speak in subsequent meetings.
Following on from the previous discussion, a bargaining representative asked about the limitation of bereavement leave to 10 days. Apple advised that it knows of many case of team requiring more than 10 days and have been granted extra leave.
Mr Robson asked what Apple’s basis is for the claims that they are one of “the highest-paying retailers in Australia”. Apple advised that it has a compensation team that performed market research to substantiate the rates of pay. Mr Robson requested a copy of this research, and Apple said that it would ask the relevant team.
Mr Robson asked for a breakdown (highest, lowest, and mean) of the salaries for each classification in the the NEA. Apple advised that this information may be confidential and was hesitant to disclose this but promised to deliver a response by the next bargaining meeting.
Mr Robson also requested a copy of Apple’s compensation policy. Both the SDA and RAFFWU also requested this policy.
Mr Robson questioned why Apple decided to increase the proposed wage increase from 2.5% to 2.8%-2.6%. Apple said that there was a request for a higher rate, and this was their response. Apple believes that it is fair with what they have seen in an analysis of the marketplace and other agreements.
Another bargaining representative asked how the job role classifications schedule was prepared. Apple informed everyone that the compensation team collects data from the industry and other employers, and that this informs the classifications.
Another question was raised around the potential for a gender pay gap to exist in Apple’s compensation structure. Apple responded by saying that it is required to do an analysis of the effect of gender on pay; this information is available on the Workplace Gender Equality Agency.
Further bargaining representatives raised concerns around annual wage increases not meeting inflation, giving examples of the recent accelerated performance review process and highlighting the often prohibitive cost of living in Australia.
Apple clarified that there is no wage difference between team who do and do not work in a flagship store.
RAFFWU raised a recent study conducted and released that showed that of the 180 agreements lodged with the Fair Work Commission in the last month, the average wage increase was 3%.
A representative brought up the subject of tenured team that are being out-earned by newer team. Apple acknowledged wage compression and that it has steps in place to address these concerns including specific wage reviews for team experiencing compression. It invited team with specific concerns to raise them with the ELR.
The SDA raised Apple’s refusal to index wage increases to CPI — the treasurer predicting inflation to reach 7.75% by the end of the year — compounded by the fact that many of Apple’s staff live in some of the most expensive cities in Australia and the world. Apple said that it would consider this.
Apple then motioned to end the meeting as agreed to by all parties present.
Bargaining Meeting 12 — Friday September 30
Bargaining Meeting 13 — Tuesday October 4
Bargaining Meeting 14 — Friday October 7
Fair Work Commission Hearing — Monday October 10
Further meetings held by the ASU and RAFFWU are anticipated to be held over the next several weeks, we will try to share these when we can.
We will continue to keep you updated on the latest bargaining meetings and any other meetings with the unions.
Apple Together Australia
From all of us at Brisbane, thank you for these updates.