The kmart agreement, which the Commission rejected earlier this month, stated that employees had to transfer their superannuation payments to REST. Kmart`s decision prompted large companies to reconsider how they will approach standard superannuation in enterprise agreements, while the government has announced that it will re-examine the problem. The Big W agreement allows employees to designate each fund of their choice. If there is no appointment, the company deducts super-payments in REST. The Fair Work Commission has approved the new enterprise agreement for the Big W discount department store, which will have about 16,000 employees across Australia. This payment is the difference between the worker`s previous regular work rate and the new lower regular pay rates for (i) notice and (ii) for a period that would correspond to the number of weeks the team member could have claimed at the end of his or her employment. Mr. Boyce gave no reason to accept Big W`s approval and said he would publish his argument „in due course.” The Commission rejected Kmart`s decision and stated that, overall, staff would be in a less favourable position, not least because the super-contributions had to be paid into REST, a fund supported by the retail union SDA, which was negotiating the agreements with Kmart and Big W. Workers approved the new collective bargaining agreement (EBA) by an overwhelming majority in a vote that ended on March 18 – two weeks before Big W owner Woolworths said it would close 30 of its branches in its 180-person network across the country. Athena Koelmeyer, an expert on labour law and director of Workplace Law, said the Commission had made it clear that agreements that require the election of superfunds would not pass. „[Kmart`s agreement] is limited to the choice of super-insurance fund that would otherwise exist under price is a less advantageous mandate,” said Vice-President Amanda Mansini at the time.
„It is the employer`s duty to explain the significant changes to a 60-side agreement like this – we will certainly talk to the Fair Work Commission.” The new agreement provides for above-average wages and conditions, with annual wage increases, penalties, increased casual charges, the choice of superannuation providers and increased rights to severance pay. The clause in Big W`s 2012 EBA prevented workers from being forcibly dismissed when branches were closed. It was withdrawn by the department store in the new agreement, which approved 92 percent of workers in March. The retail and fast food workers` union says it will challenge the new agreement on the removal of long-standing employment protection, which has prevented Big W from forcibly laying off workers. Meanwhile, a Big W spokesperson said the timing was purely coincidental and that 90 percent of employees voted in favor of the new deal in a vote last month. The layoffs at Big W, although rare, occur. As an alternative to a complete dismissal and termination of big W employment, a worker may accept a transfer to lower tariffs. In this case, the proposed agreement provides that Big W may accept it at its sole discretion and pay partial severance pay.
Big W, however, asserts that the new agreement „strengthens the rules for firing team members, with rights well above national employment standards,” and says employees have been informed of the changes. The proposed agreement will not have any lags that, until now, allowed two teams to work in one day with less than ten hours break between stations. Now there must be a 12-hour break (or 10 hours by appointment) between the conclusion of a position and the start of the next position.