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StarTrack worker sacked after pay query as colleagues vote on strike

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The Transport Workers’ Union has launched an adverse action case in the Fair Work Commission against StarTrack and labour hire company APS Transport over the sacking of a worker after she queried a drop in her pay.

The response Kim White received from APS Transport after questioning her payslip contained evidence of the move to pay some workers less for doing the same jobs as employees, alleges the union.

It said: “StarTrack notified APS this year that they wanted us to revert back to Award conditions for all sites rather than their EBA [Enterprise Agreement]”.

The TWU highlighted this to its members as evidence of the job security threat, then White, who is currently a breast cancer patient, was removed from future rosters as a freight handler at Brisbane Airport.

She was only informed of her sacking after her husband, a direct employee with StarTrack, asked his manager why his wife hadn’t received a roster and received a text response saying White “will no longer be required”.

The union claims that the decreased pay of labour hire workers like White and her sacking follow a jump in the use of outside hire at StarTrack, a key dispute in possible strike action over the threat to the jobs of employees.

The TWU says StarTrack has refused through negotiations to cap the use of outside hire and guarantee work will be allocated to employees wanting overtime ahead of bringing in lower paid labour hire workers.

The use of outside hire at StarTrack has jumped to around 70 per cent in SA, 50 per cent in Queensland and Canberra, while only one in every eight workers servicing air freight in WA is a direct employee, the union said.

StarTrack workers have operated at Christmas-levels over the last year to meet the demand of 12 per cent growth in volume, but the union said its members fear that their overtime and ultimately their jobs will be passed over to lower paid labour hire workers if they were to sign on to StarTrack’s proposed agreement.

“It’s disappointing in the extreme that StarTrack, a great business built over decades in partnership with its workforce, is taking the low road to try and force through an enterprise agreement which would give the green light to management to starve workers of overtime and replace them with lower paid labour hire and outside hire,” said TWU national secretary Michael Kaine

“Kim White has been targeted by the management team and made an example of to frighten workers into quiet obedience.

“The TWU has vowed to challenge this attack on workers. Thousands of TWU StarTrack members are currently voting on the right to take strike action, and a legal challenge has been launched to overturn the unfair and cruel sacking of Kim,” he said.

In a written statement today a StarTrack spokesperson told Big Rigs that under StarTrack’s enterprise agreements with the TWU, labour hire personnel are paid the same hourly rates that apply to StarTrack’s direct employees.

“StarTrack denies it has taken adverse action against the applicant and will vigorously defend any proceedings,” the spokesperson said.

“Labour hire personnel are paid the same hourly rates that apply to StarTrack’s direct employees but following a review of pay rates applied by APS it was discovered that shift loading had been calculated incorrectly, which led to some labour hire personnel being overpaid. This was later corrected.”

The spokesperson added that StarTrack strongly rejects that job security is under threat.

“StarTrack’s enterprise agreements, which were negotiated with the TWU in 2017 and 2018, already contain significant job security protections including paying EBA labour rates to labour-hire personnel; paying EBA labour rates to outside hire and independent contractors, and converting casual employees after regular and systematic engagement over a certain period of time.

“As part of the current round of negotiations StarTrack has offered to further enhance job security protections including introducing new labour-hire conversion rights; enhancing casual conversion rights, and improving auditing processes to ensure outside hire supplier are providing EBA rates of pay.

“StarTrack is not proposing any reductions in pay or conditions for its employees.”

This week, Australia Post, which owns StarTrack, reported record revenue of $8.27 billion and before tax profit of over $100 million. Australia Post confirmed to the Senate that $28.2 million worth of bonuses was paid to 345 employees on incomes over $200,000 in the 2019-20 financial year.

UPDATE – 3.30pm

StarTrack media statement:

StarTrack strongly denies it has taken adverse action against a worker for querying their pay, and will vigorously defend any proceedings brought by the TWU in the Fair Work Commission.

Under StarTrack’s enterprise agreements with the TWU, labour hire personnel are paid the same hourly rates that apply to StarTrack’s direct employees.

However following a review of pay rates applied by one labour firm, APS, it was discovered that shift loading had been calculated incorrectly, which led to some labour hire personnel being overpaid. This was later corrected.

Figures cited by the TWU about the percentage of outside workers used by StarTrack are also entirely incorrect.

StarTrack strongly rejects that job security is under threat. In fact StarTrack’s enterprise agreements, which were negotiated with the TWU in 2017 and 2018, already contain significant job security protections including paying EBA labour rates to labour-hire personnel; paying EBA labour rates to outside hire and independent contractors, and converting casual employees after regular and systematic engagement over a certain period of time.

As part of the current round of negotiations StarTrack has offered to further enhance job security protections including introducing new labour-hire conversion rights; enhancing casual conversion rights, and improving auditing processes to ensure outside hire supplier are providing EBA rates of pay. StarTrack is not proposing any reductions in pay or conditions for its employees.

StarTrack has also made an industry leading pay offer of 3 % per annum over three years, which has been rejected by the TWU. StarTrack is calling on the TWU to come to the negotiating table with a sensible compromise position that allows us to deliver a well-deserved pay rise to more than 3,000 workers.

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