Tuesday, 21 February 2023

Mercer Enterprise Agreement Negotiations Continue

The CPSU NSW bargaining team met with Mercer on 15 February 2023 to continue with Enterprise Agreement (EA) negotiations.

Unfortunately, the meeting was disappointing in various respects.

Members also attended a meeting with the CPSU NSW on 17 February 2023 to take their position to Mercer.

It is clear that Mercer has not listened or considered the CPSU NSW’s draft clauses in respect to issues critical to this EA coming to a close.

Major issues of contention that are currently holding up the EA progressing to a vote include:

  • The deliberate undermining of an employee bringing a dispute to the attention of Mercer by eliminating the maintenance of the “status quo”.

In a claim that was clearly a counter to a CPSU NSW claim, Mercer has drafted a new clause that ensures that any behaviour on part of Mercer that is the subject of a dispute – and the negative impact on employees that inevitably follows – will be implemented prior to the dispute being finalised.

On this basis alone, the CPSU NSW cannot advise members to support the agreement.

  • Changes to Parental Leave to eliminate pre-existing conditions.

The CPSU NSW and members are shocked at Mercer’s attempt to undermine current, legally-binding conditions in the EA, by removing significant Parental Leave entitlements and instead moving them to policy. To rub salt into the wound, Mercer have made it clear that no policy is to form a part of the EA and instead are not legally enforceable.

On this basis, the CPSU NSW cannot advise members to support the agreement.

  • Changes in Redundancy Calculations.

Contrary to Mercer’s claim not to touch redundancy calculations, the current iteration of the draft EA now claims to cut additional payments in redundancy calculations to be contingent on whether or not you receive notice of redundancy i.e. whether you work the notice period or not.

This means that employees being made redundant could potentially lose weeks of pay.

On this basis, the CPSU NSW cannot advise members to support the agreement.

  • The $200 allowance – Missing in Action.

Despite Mercer touting a new allowance in the EA, as presented to its employees, this entitlement has been conveniently disregarded and left out of the current iteration of the EA.

  • Gender Affirmation – Missing in Action.

The current iteration of the Enterprise Agreement has not one mention of Gender Affirmation. Whilst Mercer has undertaken to include this in the next iteration of the EA, we will not hold our breath.

  • The Right to Disconnect “Clause” – Missing in Action.

It appears Mercer has reneged on it’s promise to employees to include the new “Right to Disconnect Clause”. Instead, Mercer has opted to implement a sub-clause stating that only those employees on annual leave do not need to answer all communications from Mercer – unless in exceptional circumstances (which are NOT described). The clause is, in effect, absolutely redundant and unacceptable.

  • Transparency in Redundancy Calculations.

Mercer has undertaken to write this into the EA prior to the next meeting. If it is not included, the CPSU NSW considered this yet another broken promise.

Transparency in the redundancy process and calculations has been a fundamental claim by bargaining representatives and it is especially relevant in the current context.

There are many more issues with the current iteration of the draft EA. BUT – they are fixable. The ball is entirely in Mercer’s court now. The next iteration of the EA will really speak to how valuable Mercer thinks its employees are.

The Problem with Policy

Do not be fooled. A policy is not your friend.

Mercer may present the inclusion of certain conditions in a policy as a great thing. The problem is – they have nothing to do with the enforceable legal rights under a negotiated and agreed Enterprise Agreement.

Policies are subordinate to an EA and, in the case of the new proposed Mercer EA, sit outside the EA with no enforceable affect. This presents an opportunity for Mercer – one they are unfortunately taking at the expense of employees – to undermine the current EA and cut back to the bone for basic legal obligations.

Policies can change at any time. Consultation with the CPSU NSW will not prevent Mercer from implementing any policy change that it wants. This means that, whilst you may see great benefits from a policy for example, paid parental leave entitlements, there is nothing preventing Mercer from deciding to change or abolish the policy altogether from the date the new Enterprise Agreement is approved.

The CPSU NSW cannot advise members to support the agreement where current conditions are being cut in favour of non-legally binding entitlements.

Who is Delaying?

The CPSU NSW is extremely disturbed to hear that misinformation is being spread in Mercer that the union is responsible for “holding up” the EA. The union rejects this.

The truth is, the CPSU NSW have been working hard at every opportunity to accelerate the process by bringing meetings forward and conceding on claims.

We are aware of the impending redundancies and have been seeking to engage with Mercer at every opportunity to find common ground and compromises.

The Critical Opportunity for Mercer to Right its Wrongs

The next meeting is scheduled for 22 February 2023.

The current schedule has Mercer putting out the EA for the 7 day access period on 1 March 2023.

Time is running out for Mercer to come to the table and give its employees what they deserve.

Needless to say, the CPSU NSW cannot endorse any EA being put to a vote if Mercer does not do the right thing for its employees.

The union sincerely hopes that Mercer will table an EA worthy of its employees at the next meeting.

We have outlined the critical issues to Mercer that will settle this EA in time. We are not asking for much.

Protected Action Ballot

Regrettably, should Mercer not listen to its employees and make the fundamental changes needed to the EA to secure pay increases prior to the notification of redundancies, the CPSU NSW will have no choice but to explore every option for its members to take industrial action.

Get in Contact

If you are interested in being a delegate or would like more information about the role or anything above, you can email or call the CPSU NSW.

Your Mercer CPSU NSW Team

Kylee Bell – CPSU NSW Delegate

Erinna Madge – CPSU NSW Delegate

Bart McKenzie – CPSU NSW Organiser

Shane Elliot – CPSU NSW Organiser


Michael Cope – CPSU NSW Industrial Officer