Sunbus almost sorted

Resolution to the Sunbus enterprise agreement dispute looks like settling after a final round of meetings in Brisbane this week

Sunbus almost sorted
Sunbus almost sorted

By David Goeldner | March 17, 2011

A resolution to the Sunbus enterprise agreement impasse appears likely to be settled early next week after a final round of conciliation meetings were held in Brisbane on Tuesday.

Transit Australia Group Managing Director Wayne Patch says his company gave some ground to the Townsville union negotiators seeking three year deals for their drivers, and an agreed position on weekend penalty rates.

"I am not in a position to discuss the individual aspects of it, but by the end of next week the drivers will have had a look at the offer and then we’ll get down to the fine detail," Patch says.

The enterprise agreements affect Sunbus’ operations in Townsville and the Sunshine Coast, with drivers taking protected industrial action over their respective claims late last year after initial rejection by TAG.

Fair Work Commissioner Ian Cambridge held further discussions with each of the parties, involving the AWU and TWU, in separate rooms at Tuesday’s meeting, which Patch says resulted in ‘enormous’ progress being made.

"We’re hopeful that the position adopted on the day will be acceptable to each party," Patch says.

"There was an undertaking by the unions to take the position back to each depot for a series of yard meetings."

The Sunshine Coast driver’s meeting will be held early next week.

Patch says the commissioner found the position agreed by the parties to be ‘eminently sensible’, and that drivers would likely vote in favour of the enterprise agreements for Sunshine Coast and Townsville.

"We were looking for a shorter term in Townsville, but the unions sought a three year agreement and whilst that’s beyond the term of our current contract up there, we understand their reasons," says Patch.

Patch also explains that as Magnetic Island and Hermit Park drivers were not originally included in the Townsville-based EA, TAG has sought a few more days to revise their offer to include these drivers.

"We’ve undertaken to get back to them on Monday with the revised offer, but we have consented to a three year deal," he says.

Patch says there will be some ‘tweaking’ at the margins over the meaning of some proposed clauses in the EAs, but saw the dispute as all but over.

"As the company has been saying all along, we thought it was always possible to get an agreeable outcome between the parties, and the only way we could see that happening was through the assistance of Fair Work Australia," he says.

"We would be hopeful that will be the end of the matter and there will be a three year agreement in place for the drivers to vote on very shortly and we can get on with our business and they can get on with theirs."

Patch also says Commissioner Cambridge was clear that while the FWA was involved in the conciliation process, parties should cease industrial action and there be no derogatory comments or inflammatory statements made in the media.

"Both the unions and the company have abided by this," says Patch.

"The commissioner has done a mighty job and I’m hopeful that there is little prospect of any further industrial action."

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