Fair Work Australia is hearing a case brought by the Australian Manufacturers’ Workers Union (AMWU) over the failure Cochlear to bargain in good faith with its workforce.
According to AMWU NSW Secretary Tim Ayres, this case will test whether current Fair Work laws can deliver outcomes for workers whose employers refuse to genuinely negotiate with them.
The AMWU is representing Cochlear process workers in the case.
AMWU has been attempting to reach a union collective agreement with the ear implant manufacturer since the previous employment agreement expired in 2007.
"The AMWU has taken a patient and constructive approach to bargaining with Cochlear," Ayres said in statement.
"Our consistent aim has been to reach an agreement which supports continuing productivity improvements while giving workers some well-deserved security over work conditions and a reasonable pay increase.
“We have been led down the garden path by Cochlear management, who say the Fair Work Act only compels them to sit at the negotiating table, not to reach an agreement."
AMWU said it has spent 12 months negotiating a bargaining protocol with Cochlear, only to have the company use the protocol as a means to frustrate bargaining over substantive matters of pay and work conditions.
“The AMWU has gone far beyond legal requirements in the spirit of genuine negotiation with Cochlear,” Ayres said
“We have put forward a reasonable and modest claim. Yet in the last two years of supposedly serious negotiating, the company has not put forward a bargaining position.
“Cochlear’s ideologically-driven, anti-union grandstanding is counter to the reasonable wishes of its workforce and community expectations about rights at work.”
Ayres said that AMWU works with manufacturing businesses to negotiate fair and appropriate collective deals that support both working conditions and workplace productivity.
“We want to see the companies employing our members thrive and succeed,” he said.
“It’s time for Cochlear to stop playing games and it’s time for the Fair Work laws to deliver for these workers.”
Ayres said five years was too long a wait for an outcome in this case.
“All Australian workers have the right to expect – a fair collective agreement,” he said.
AMWU is seeking a good faith bargaining order against Cochlear. The hearing is scheduled to run for five days.