LTIFRs (sort of) gone from Australia Post

The Communications Division of the CEPU has been in negotiations with Australia Post for some time to establish a pathway to better industrial relations.  On 18 March 2010 a memorandum of understanding (MOU) was signed between the two parties, committing both to progress.

Of direct OHS interest is the following paragraph in the media statement about the MOU:

“As a gesture of good faith the MOU contains commitments from all parties that will apply immediately:

  • Australia Post will host a summit in April between senior executives including the Managing Director and senior CEPU representatives on the future challenges facing the business, the unions and their members; and
  • The removal of Lost Time Injury Frequency Rate’s in bonus targets for managers.”

Whether OHS will be discussed at the summit is unknown but the removal of LTIFR is of significance to OHS professionals.

A major Australian employer agrees to give up LTIFRs as a justification for managerial bonuses.  Woo-Hoo!

But the MOU is not as optimistic as first thought and it provides a bigger context:

“While the CEPU and the CPSU support the need for Australia Post to implement a policy of early intervention in respect of long term workplace injuries, Australia Post recognises that the CEPU and CPSU have concerns about the operation of its Facility Nominated Doctor program.  On that basis, and acknowledging concerns raised by the CEPU and CPSU, Australia Post has agreed to the following change to the Injury Management (Early Intervention) Program (EIP) and Workers’ Compensation process:
  • Australia Post will not include Lost Time Injury Frequency Rate targets as a component of bonus payments for Managers.  Managers will continue to have obligations under their performance management agreements that require them to observe and apply occupational health and safety policies and procedures. LTIFR targets will, however, continue to be a Corporate KPI.”

LTIFR will continue as a Corporate key performance indicator.  So the corporate executives still want that benchmark even though it is not a bonus measure any longer for those who are lower on the organisational chart.  SafetyAtWorkBlog wrote in early December 2009 about the union’s issues with LTIFRs.

Ed Husic, Divisional Secretary of the CEPU, emphasised to SafetyAtWorkBlog that the MOU is a starting point in the relationship and pointed out that LTIFRs are still desirable by the corporate level, partly, due to the requirements of Australia Post’s workers’ compensation insurer, Comcare.  Husic was very thankful that LTIFRs had been removed from managerial bonuses so that managers’ focus on genuine OHS improvements rather than  meeting bonus targets.

But where does all this leave the Senate Inquiry into Australia Post’s Treatment of Injured and Ill Workers?  According to the inquiry’s website the inquiry remains active and has extended the reporting time to 12 May 2010.  The committee secretariat told SafetyAtWorkBlog that they have struggled to get the Senators together for another hearing.  Husic says this may be due to the large number of senate committees that are operating at the moment but noted that the inquiry believes that more evidence still needs to be gathered.

The MOU provides a statement of commitment to fairness and common goals.  Both parties have relinquished ground for the sake of the relationship, it is fairly friendly words but does it erase the bitterness and vitriol and public statements that all parties and some senators have issued over the last few months?

The reality is that the future welfare of the workers who are aggrieved about their treatment at the hands of Australia Post, is uncertain.  There will be a resolution, if the MOU lives up to its potential, but will it be satisfactory to the injured and ill workers?   The negotiations are a stage where industrial relations needs to be handled delicately, words chosen carefully and the volume of protesting workers dampened.  May is only two months away.

Kevin Jones

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