‘Not about pay anymore’: ABC staff call for Buttrose to intervene in wages drama

‘Not about pay anymore’: ABC staff call for Buttrose to intervene in wages drama

ABC chair Ita Buttrose and managing director David Anderson have been called to intervene in a drawn-out bargaining dispute between the national broadcaster and its staff as the threat of strike action looms.

The ABC’s management is trying to bring on a vote early next month over a fresh pay offer many employees at the government-funded broadcaster days later voted to reject, arguing it failed to address key demands around gender and racial equity, as well as an acceptable wage rise.

ABC staff have called on Ita Buttrose to intervene in wage negotiations.Credit:James Alcock

The new enterprise agreement offer – which includes a one-off $1500 payment as well as a 4 per cent pay rise in the first year, a 3.5 per cent increase in year two, and 3 per cent increase in year three – was emailed to staff last Friday, in a move the media union claims was done without notice.

A spokesperson for the Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance, said resolutions passed in meetings this week called on Buttrose and Anderson to ensure bargaining was done in “good faith” after staff said the latest offer ignored requests for an audit of female and culturally diverse representation.

“It’s not really about pay anymore. People feel really strongly about these issues,” the MEAA spokesperson said.

The email to staff described the revised offer as “fair and equitable to all parties”.

The spokesperson said the union’s 1000 members at the ABC would have until the end of the month to vote on a range of actions, from wearing union logos to full 24-hour work stoppages.

Community and Public Sector Union ABC director Sinndy Ealy said “all options” for industrial action – including work stoppages and partial work bans – were on the table after the Fair Work Commission cleared the way for staff to demonstrate against a fresh proposal.

She described industrial action as a last resort, but “if the employer continues to treat [staff] in this manner they’re leaving the workforce with little choice.”

An ABC spokesperson declined to comment on the prospect of industrial action.

Ealy described the $1500 payment as a “sweetener” that would help with a few bills, but fail to address the rising costs of living. “ABC staff are not fools,” she said.

She accused the broadcaster of offering less than it did in a proposal that was voted down in December because a previous offer of backpay had since been excluded.

The ABC spokesperson denied the broadcaster was offering less. “The ABC’s initial proposal was for a three-year agreement expiring in October 2025, with a one-off payment of $750 and pay increases of 3.5 per cent, 3 per cent and 2.5 per cent,” the spokesperson said.

“The new proposal is a three-year agreement expiring in March 2026, with a $1500 one-off payment, and higher pay increases during the life of the agreement, resulting in higher base salaries. This has been carefully calibrated with regard to the ABC’s fixed funding envelope.”

However, Ealy said the new offer amounted, in real terms, to just 2.3 per cent in the first year. She said staff had shown “incredible restraint” in calling for a 6 per cent rise in the first year in light of soaring inflation, which is currently at 7.8 per cent.

“The ABC continues to cry poor all the while telling its audiences about their plan to expand the organisation. If they don’t have the money to pay their staff correctly they shouldn’t be making those promises,” she said.

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