Clashes prevent consensus on Graphic Arts award

Clashes prevent consensus on Graphic Arts award
Ai Group, AMWU, and PIAA fail to come to agreement on updating competencies, training package

The four-yearly review in into the Graphic Arts, Printing, and Publishing Award looks set to remain unresolved, as the AMWU has withdrawn its submission, claiming the Ai Group had no intention of working constructively to update competencies.

The AMWU had the support of the PIAA across updating competencies, with the plan to tie them in with Award rate classifications. The Ai Group contends that any changes to the classifications of wage structures could have a significant effect on businesses, but that it had no issues with updating the Printing and Graphic Arts Industry Training Package.

All three are players in the Industry Reference Committee responsible for updating the award.

On discussing why the AMWU decided to withdraw its application, Lorraine Cassin, national print division secretary, AMWU, says, “The way we work in the printing and graphic design industry is changing at a rapid rate and it is critical that we can attract, train, and retain the skilled workers for the future.

“To that end, the AMWU had sought to apply to the Fair Work Commission to update the Graphic Arts Award and modernise the competency standards in the Award. The current competencies in the Award do not reflect the current industry developments in digital and 3D printing. We had made this application with the support of the Printing Industry Association of Australian (PIAA).

“Unfortunately, it became clear in the course of our application, that the Australian Industry Group (AIG) had no intention of working constructively with the AMWU and the PIAA to update the competencies in the Award. The behaviour of the AIG indicated to us that they would fight this application at all costs.

“On the basis of the above, we decided to withdraw our application and instead pursue our objectives by working with the PIAA on an implementation guide for classifying employees. The implementation guide will be a resource for employers to classify employees in a way that is in line with our modern industry standards. We look forward to continuing working constructively to improve skills and productivity in our industry.”

The Ai Group has refuted this characterisation, with Stephen Smith, head of workplace relations policy, Ai Group, noting, “The FWC proceedings related to a union claim to vary the Graphic Arts Award in a manner that would have led to large cost risks for businesses. There were significant risks of reclassification claims and higher wage increases, and that is the reason why Ai Group vigorously opposed the claim on behalf of its many member companies in the printing and packaging industries.

“The FWC proceedings also relate to an Ai Group proposal to vary the Award to delete the extremely complex and out-of-date competency standards schedule in the Award. The deletion of this schedule will make it much easier for employers and employees to know what classifications and wage rates apply, in a similar manner to nearly every other award.

“Contrary to the misinformation that the AMWU has been circulating about Ai Group’s position, Ai Group’s proposed award variation will not have any impact on the Printing and Graphic Arts Industry Training Package. Industry training packages, and the associated qualifications and competencies, are intended to guide industry training outcomes. Everyone agrees that the Printing and Graphic Arts Industry Training Package has an important role to play and should be kept up to date.”

The PIAA has indicated to Australian Printer that it intends to keep working towards a resolution. Andrew Macaulay, CEO, Printing Industries, says, “In essence, there was a need to modernise the Award, and we were prepared to support the union on that, as it reflected the work of the Industry Reference Committee, the industry consultant group that discusses the evolution of vocational training.

“Interests that do not employ apprentices objected to this path to modernisation, for reasons the association cannot fathom. Our members have advised us on the urgent need for the award to be modernised, The Industry Reference Committee is actively working to modernise the award.

“Interests unrelated to the industry put obstacles in the way that would have cost the union significant amounts of money to overcome, so they unfortunately withdrew their submission.

“The Association will find another way to modernise the award, in the interest of our members, who employ apprentices.”

Source: Australian Printer

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