Rest Breaks, Enterprise Agreements & Marriage
By DIANE KIRK & VERONICA BUCKLEY
Every day, we receive phone calls and emails from members querying their rights in regard to their rest and meal breaks. The following article highlights the legal status of members’ breaks.
What are the similarities and differences between Enterprise Agreements and marriage?
Before we answer that question, it is necessary to define an Enterprise Agreement. An EA is a legal document which details employees’ minimum wages and working conditions. It is a legal document which has been negotiated between the SDA and an employer. We won’t bore you with a definition of marriage.
Similarities of Enterprise Agreements and Marriage
- Both are agreements governed by laws which have been passed through the federal parliament.
There are sanctions if these agreements are broken. For example, if an employer doesn’t pay their employees correctly there are industrial courts which can ensure the employer makes restitution. Similarly, Australian law dictates that individuals can’t have three or four husbands or wives.
- Both agreements are entered into good faith.
- Importantly, both agreements are there for the good times and the bad.
Differences between Enterprise Agreements and Marriage
- The duration of an EA nominally expires after two to four years whilst couples who enter into marriage are committed to their marriage ‘until death do us part’.
- Negotiations occur between the employer and the SDA before the expiry date of the Agreement. Both sides have the opportunity to negotiate for a new set of wages and working conditions for the duration of the next Agreement.
In good times and bad…..
Once an employer or a trade union becomes a signatory to an EA, there is no backing away from that legal commitment. It is fair to say that employers do not like meeting certain entitlements in Agreements and similarly, it is fair to say that trade unions would like improved entitlements during the life span of the EA.
The critical point is that both sides can’t ‘cherry pick’ what they like and discard other conditions which they don’t like.
Recently, we have received phone calls from members who report they are not getting their rest breaks at appropriate times or sometimes not at all.
The terms of your Enterprise Agreement must be adhered to in good times and in bad.
All SDA Enterprise Agreements have provisions for breaks. Managers have no defence if they argue that “things are tough and we haven’t got time to give employees their breaks”.
It is not good enough for your line manager, or supervisor to say that you cannot have a break because there is no one to replace you. It is the ultimate responsibility of the Store Manager to make sure there is enough staff rostered to cover all breaks for all SDA members.
Problems can arise when shifts are spread over different departments of the store. If breaks have not been allocated, this is an example of poor management. It is the store manager’s ultimate responsibility to insist the department managers or supervisors do not disregard any clause within the EA.
If any manager is not ensuring their employees receive their legal breaks, they are breaking the law.
We urge members to insist on their breaks. If any member has a difficulty in receiving their legitimate breaks, immediately pursue the matter with management. If you encounter further problems, contact your trained Shop Steward and they will only be too glad to help. If there is still a problem, the Shop Steward will contact the union office.
Why take breaks?
Never take your break for granted. After Unions were first formed, one of the first issues negotiated were breaks from continuous work. You only have one body. Breaks are designed to replenish the body with food, fluid and rest.
You work hard – so enjoy your break – you deserve it!