Ewin Hannan, Industrial editor, The Australian
TNT Australia managing director Bob Black yesterday warned that the company's viability in Australia would come under pressure if it agreed to the Transport Workers Union's claim.
As part of a push to secure deals with big transport operators, TNT employees have won the right to take six four-hour strikes on Friday. The company said the action was a 24-hour strike.
Employees have also voted to impose an indefinite ban on the loading and unloading of vehicles operated by outside hire companies at all TNT sites on Saturday.
Tony Sheldon, the union's federal secretary, criticised the company for cancelling a fresh round of negotiations scheduled for today, saying the action showed the company was not taking the union claim seriously.
TNT and the union have agreed on an 8 per cent pay rise over two years, but the company has rejected a claim for an extra 2 per cent employer contribution to superannuation. The union also wants to increase site rates for casual or labour hire employees.
Employers have warned that the pursuit of similar claims on different companies was pattern-bargaining, but Workplace Relations Minister Chris Evans has insisted the Fair Work Act prohibits the practice.
Mr Black said the annual 4 per cent pay rise offered to employees was fair and reasonable, above the inflation rate and did not require productivity trade-offs.
He said the company had offered generous redundancy payments and enhanced leave arrangements for TWU delegates. While about 2500 TNT employee drivers and dockhands nationally would benefit from the offer, Mr Black said 747 TWU members voted in favour of taking industrial action. He said the company would increase employer superannuation payments only in line with federal law.
"Claims made by the TWU beyond the proposed wage increase could increase TNT's annual operating costs by approximately $10 million," he said.
"Such costs are not sustainable and would put pressure on TNT's viability within Australia."
He said he hoped employees would not take part in the "unjustified" action, which he said would harm the company and its customers.
Mr Sheldon said the company was excluding 3000 casual and labour-hire employees by not including a site rate for the agreement. He said TNT should negotiate an increase in superannuation given the employees worked in "an industry that has physically demanding work where you cannot keep working until you are 65".
"There needs to be a bit of give and take from the company on this and yet they have declined," he said.
"On the whole, employees at TNT are outraged with the management's attitude. We have had an incident in South Australia in which TNT management required labour hire and casual workers to continue work after the workplace was exposed to asbestos."
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