MB CEO Jacob Varghese rang ASU National Industrial Officer Michael Rizzo on the afternoon of Friday 3 April to inform him that because of the COVID-19 pandemic, MB wanted to postpone EBA negotiations until May and that the EBA offer made to the USU/ASU in December 2019 would be temporarily withdrawn.

Jacob explained that because of the pandemic the firm was concerned about future billings, income reduction and cash flow problems. He also said that no one knew how long the social distancing measures would be in place (weeks/months) and therefore it was difficult to abide by the commitments made in the offer.

M. Rizzo responded by saying that he wanted the scheduled EBA meeting on April 7 to proceed and that he would inform USU/ASU Branch Organisers and delegates of this significant development.

April 7 EBA meeting
At the meeting Jacob repeated his position on the EBA negotiations to the USU/ASU delegates. He added that he hoped to revive the MB EBA offer to the USU/ASU in the future depending on the circumstances. Postponing the negotiations until May he said would hopefully give us a clearer picture.

The USU/ASU Caucus responded by saying that we were very disappointed that the offer had been withdrawn but we would agree to postpone negotiations until May. Both MB and the USU/ASU agreed to continue the EBA negotiations in May and both parties hoped the pandemic situation would be clearer by then.

Other issues raised at the April 7 EBA meeting
1. Special Consultation Committee Meetings on COVID-19 Pandemic Issues
The USU/ASU has asked MB that there be formal consultation between the USU/ASU and MB about issues, policies and procedures that may arise out of the COVID-19 pandemic. It has been agreed between the parties that a Special Consultation Committee meet on a fortnightly basis to deal with any out workings of the pandemic. This Committee comprising of management reps and USU/ASU delegates is to meet ASAP.

2. Treatment of Annual Leave
It has been reported to the USU/ASU that some members have applied for annual leave, then withdrawn their annual leave application, but management insisting that the leave should proceed anyway. The situation under the EBA is as follows: under Clause 23.5 “Annual leave can be taken at a time AGREED (emphasis added) between MB and the employee…” while at clause 23.6 it says “MB may direct an employee to take annual leave only where it is reasonable to do so (emphasis added) and where the employee has an accrued annual leave balance in excess of eight weeks.”

If any member is in a situation where leave is not being reversed or the taking of leave drops their balance below 8 weeks, they should contact their USU/ASU delegate and try and conciliate the matter with their Manager. If conciliation fails then the USU/ASU would consider lodging a dispute.

3. Carer’s Leave
The COVID-19 pandemic has had a big impact on schools, childcare and kindergartens while many employees are working from home. Members have made requests for flexible work and appropriate leave arrangements. MB said in response that it will try to be as flexible as possible. Again if issues arise contact your delegate for conciliation with your Manager.

4. Redundancies / Stand downs
The USU/ASU raised with MB that if the COVID-19 pandemic was to cause any move towards redundancies and/or stand downs, the USU/ASU wants to be informed and that exhaustive consultation should occur with the union. MB said it had no plans for either redundancies or stand downs at this point and would engage the USU/ASU if they were ever to arise.

Want more information?
For more information, please get in touch with USU Organiser Emily Callachor on 0417 420 924 or