We need the ability to access independent arbitration

The purpose of the consultation and dispute resolution clauses in the EA is to set the ground rules for how CBA and their employees will deal with and escalate disputes, and to formalise a fair process that will be followed when CBA are implementing major changes. 


While FSU members at CBA have frustrations with how consultation is currently handled by CBA, we are not proposing any changes to this clause. CBA are proposing a few very small changes here that we do not believe are in members’ best interests. 

CBA’s wording changes to this clause would raise the bar even higher such that the bank could wait even longer before arguably being required to genuinely consult with members over major changes at work. 

The FSU believe that with better processes and a fairer dispute resolution clause in place, the current consultation provisions are sufficient and fair – provided that they are followed. 

Dispute Resolution. 

Since the Royal Commission we’ve watched as the major banks rush to declare new and strengthened commitments to transparency, accountability and regulatory oversight.  

Rightly concerned about repairing their public image post Royal Commission, CBA have divested from the more problematic business areas, and made public commitments to do better. 

For workplace issues to be resolved fairly, it’s critical that disputes that can’t be resolved directly with the bank at the various stages as outlined in the EA, are able to be escalated to the Fair Work Commission for an independent decision.  

One of the FSU’s central claims for the 2020 EA is for an improved Dispute Resolution clause, with the ability for an independent third party to play a determinative role in resolving disputes. This would positively regulate the relationship between CBA, their employees and their union. 

Such a role for an independent body, with proper expertise, means that: 

  1. Persons to whom the enterprise agreement applies can have confidence that decisions are made impartially and consistently.
  2. Problems do not continue unaddressed and turn into large, expensive problems for the Bank or its employees.
  3. Disputes can be resolved to finality in a manner that is just, quick and cheap.
  4. There is an alternative to costly litigation in a Court.

The FSU and its members have found that the current clause’s lack of access to determinative proceedings and the carving out of more contentious matters from such proceedings means that the current disputes procedure lacks utility.  

The current procedure is a dead end. If a dispute cannot be resolved by a member’s senior management, or by HR, it can be taken to conciliation but no further. There are currently so many topics carved out, such that even at conciliation CBA are often not bound to follow the recommendations made. 

Case Study: 

In 2017 CBA announced a decision to close the Brisbane GLS office and make 150 employees redundant. Through the consultation process the FSU raised concerns about the way CBA were implementing this change. The FSU put a list of 12 common sense proposals for consideration to the bank. The union’s suggestions would have made a difficult situation easier for affected employees and importantly – were not designed to stop what the bank had decided – just to make it fairer. The suggestions were things like offering retirement plans to affected employees over 55, ensuring that those whose contracts had less favourable redundancy provisions were offered the better redundancy provisions under the EA and giving employees first right to apply for internal job vacancies. 
CBA is under an obligation in the EA to “genuinely consider” these kinds of proposals through consultation. 

They made none of the changes we suggested.

The union initiated a dispute at the highest level we are able under the current disputes provision: conciliation in the Fair Work Commission. The Commissioner recommended that CBA genuinely consider the union’s 12 reasonable proposals to do with how to treat 150 staff. That recommendation wasn’t binding, because disputes around consultation are further watered down in the current EA.
CBA continued as planned. 

In order to be effective for the FSU, its members and the Bank, a disputes procedure should: 

  1. Apply to all matters under the enterprise agreement and the NES; and
  2. Provide for access to determinative proceedings, such as arbitration, in the Fair Work Commission, where the parties have exhausted the possibility of settlement and without the requirement of further consent from other parties to a dispute.

If CBA say there’s nothing wrong with the current system (and they do) then why not open it up to a bit of sunlight?