A number of ABC staff walked off the job for an hour this morning and are expected to do so again this afternoon as part of an “angry” response to ABC management’s approach to negotiating a pay deal.
For the first time in more than a decade, strike action caused disruptions to Radio National programs and other broadcasts from about 7am.
Members of the Community and Public Sector Union (CPSU) are expected to stop work for another hour from 3pm. The union declined to disclose how many members would walk out but the number is understood to be in the low hundreds.
The union’s ABC section secretary, Sinddy Ealy, said members went ahead with action to “send a message” of disapproval to management over the “lack of respect” they’ve been shown through the bargaining process.
Two key demands were left unmet in a revised offer tabled by ABC management on Tuesday, Ealy said, including improved pay and progression.
“CPSU members made a commitment to take action today if the ABC management did not meet two key demands that were outstanding in bargaining. Unsurprisingly, they did not adequately meet those demands,” Ealy said.
“This is a reflection of the way ABC management have behaved throughout the entire process. They have dug their heels in at every possible point, even when it was at the detriment of the ABC as a whole, and CPSU members have had enough.”
A spokesperson for the ABC said the strike action this morning caused some changes to programming on the broadcaster’s flagship Radio National, along with Sydney Local Radio. RN Breakfast was off-air altogether between 7am and 8am.
“We regret audiences were impacted and we welcome the MEAA’s decision to call off its stopwork action,” the spokesperson told Crikey.
At 3pm Wednesday, staff at the ABC’s Ultimo office “might” sing together in solidarity to the tune of “Glory, glory hallelujah!”, sources said. Lyric sheets were dispersed around the office over the course of Wednesday morning. It is understood the lyric sheets are not union material. The sheet reads:
They exploit us with our pay-rates, which are globally among,
The lowest in the industry oh crickey we are stung!
But they’ll tremble at our voices, when they hear these verses sung,
For the Union makes us strong.
Both the CPSU and Media, Entertainment & Arts Alliance (MEAA), which between them represent more than 1000 members at the national broadcaster, planned to walk off the job together on Wednesday, after giving notice of two one-hour stoppages last week.
But the MEAA called off its strike late on Tuesday after reaching in-principle agreement with management over a new pay deal, which included pay rises for staff of 11% over three years backdated to October last year, and a $1500 sign-on bonus.
MEAA media director Cassie Derrick said management had also agreed to an audit of the broadcaster’s gender and culturally and linguistically diverse pay gap, and to involve the union in the legal drafting of a new enterprise agreement.
The ABC has also committed to “fix the broken buyout system” and formalise new pathways for career progression, Derrick said.
“Clearly the threat of industrial action has helped to focus ABC management’s mind, as has the outpouring of support for our members from ABC viewers and listeners,” Derrick said. “This has never been just about pay. It’s about ensuring a fair go at forging a career at the public broadcaster.”
Earlier this month, ABC media union members voted overwhelmingly to support a 40-minute walkout due to coincide with the Reserve Bank’s decision to raise the official cash rate for the tenth time, a significant national news event.
Sources familiar with the negotiations said the threat of action in early March offered an inflection point for the bargaining process, which ABC managing director David Anderson joined in late February in a bid to stave off strike action.
As MEAA members mull over management’s revised offer, representatives of the CPSU said it will continue to push for its demands to be met.
“We have been clear with ABC management about what minor movements are required on their part for both unions to endorse the offer and recommend members vote yes,” Ealy said. “It’s now time for the ABC management to listen to their employees and do what is right by them and their organisation.”