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Hussam Abd

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“Simply un-Australian”: Unions drag Apple back to the negotiation table over better working conditions

The SDA and the Australian Services Union joined together to block Apple’s attempts to pass a subpar contract for its employees prematurely.

The unions are seeking changes to the agreement, which would have mandated Australians to work 60 hours per week without weekends, on behalf of 4,000 workers in Australia.

The national secretary of the SDA, Gerard Dwyer, said that Apple should never have needed to be persuaded to negotiate by the Fair Work Commission.

“With inflation above six per cent and rising, this would see Apple employees struggling with the cost of living, finding it even more difficult to pay for food, fuel, shelter and the other essentials of life.

“For a company making at least $11b in profits annually from its Australian operations, its behaviour is simply un-Australian,” he added.

Talks going back and forth

Apple agreed last month to discuss a new working arrangement with Australian staff after unions complained to the Fair Work Commission about employee demands for improved compensation and a guaranteed weekend. 

Apple has suggested an agreement with a pay minimum of 17 per cent more than the award rate, excluding weekend penalty costs. Furthermore, the company plans to raise pay by 2.8 per cent this year, 2.6 per cent in 2024, and 2.7 per cent in 2025. However, unions have asked that Apple employees should be granted at least one weekend off every month and two consecutive days off while working weekends.

“The deal put forward by one of the world’s richest companies would also see workers’ wages go backwards with a pay increase well below inflation, and without rostering protections meaning workers would not have a guaranteed off-weekend in a given month,” as per the Joint ASU/SDA statement.

“While unions have secured some initial concessions from Apple in negotiations, such as minimum guaranteed hours for part-time workers of 19 hours per week, they say the deal is “a long way off” and the Commission’s decision allowed more time for a fair deal to be struck.

Apple attempted to put the final Agreement up for a vote on September 19 without telling the bargaining representatives that the negotiations had ended. The Australian Services Union and SDA intervened immediately to prevent a vote from taking place without first informing and consulting staff.

As a result of union appeals to the Fair Work Commission, the access period for the new agreement was cancelled, and four extra meetings were arranged for the end of September and the beginning of October. The suit prompted the firm to connect with its employees and address any issues presented by Apple employees.

Emeline Gaske, Assistant National Secretary Australian Services Union, noted that despite blocking Apple’s attempts to ram through an agreement, hard work still lies ahead. “For a company making at least $11 billion in annual profits from its Australian operations, it can afford to pay its workers properly and give them basic conditions like a weekend once per month.”

Apple reported record third-quarter sales of $83.0 billion, up 2 per cent year over year, and quarterly earnings per diluted share of $1.20. This period concluded in June 2022. According to media sources, Apple has approximately 65,000 workers in its retail division, including those who sell, fix, and troubleshoot goods and services. Thirty-six per cent of Apple’s $366 billion in revenue in 2021 came from its retail presence.

SDA vs multibillion-dollar behemoths

This is not the first time SDA has targeted a major US corporation this year. More than 250,000 current and former McDonald’s employees in Australia were seeking compensation as of early this year in the SDA’s most recent legal action against the fast food chain.

A major Federal Court Claim was filed against 323 McDonald’s operators and the fast food giant over the alleged denial of paid rest intervals at roughly 1000 McDonald’s restaurants. The SDA claims that McDonald’s staff members were not only not informed of their right to rest periods but also that breaks may be exchanged for a free soft drink or meal.

Visit SDA here.


ALSO READ: The Great Reskilling: More managers are convinced that new hires require training

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Yajush Gupta

Yajush Gupta

Yajush is a journalist at Dynamic Business. He previously worked with Reuters as a business correspondent and holds a postgrad degree in print journalism.

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