ABC journalists will walk off the job for 40 minutes next Tuesday – the first protected industrial action in 17 years.
The industrial action – the first step in a campaign of rolling action to improve pay and conditions, has been timed to make it difficult to cover a key news story – the Reserve Bank Australia (RBA) board meeting and official cash rate announcement on 7 March.
If no better deal is offered more action is likely, up to and including a 24-hour strike.
The last time ABC staff went on strike was in 2006 when members of the Community and Public Sector Union and the Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance walked off for 24 hours, also over a pay offer.
The strike caused a disruption to TV and radio services. The then director of radio, Sue Howard, read the local traffic and weather reports and Radio National and NewsRadio carried BBC programming.
Hundreds of journalists met on Wednesday around the country and agreed to the short walk-off after more than 90% of staff voted for industrial action in the protected ballot.
ABC’s managing director, David Anderson, this week met personally with unions after they rejected the latest pay offer from management but no agreement was reached.
MEAA’s media director, Cassie Derrick, said Anderson did not make a new offer and members were resolute about getting an improved deal.
“David Anderson listened to our concerns and has agreed to postpone voting on the current offer, but there was no commitment made about providing an improved deal that addresses the major concerns of staff,” Derrick said.
“This is not just about pay. It’s about ensuring a fair go at forging a career at the public broadcaster.
“It’s about sustainable careers and equal pay for journalists in the regions, from diverse backgrounds and women.”
ABC staff who are members of the CPSU are not involved in Tuesday’s strike. However, the union is understood to be planning to support journalists by wearing red and cheering them on.
CPSU’s ABC section secretary, Sinddy Ealy, said the latest offer from ABC management left workers worse off in year one than the offer that was voted down late last year.
The new offer includes a one-off $1,500 sign on payment, which fails to offset the exclusion of backpay, and results in a real offer of just 2.3% in the first year, she said.
“Union members in the ABC are disappointed in their employer’s attitude towards bargaining and are continuing to prepare for industrial action,” Ealy said.
The ABC denies it is 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%, 3% and 2.5%,” a spokesperson said.
“The new proposal is a three-year agreement expiring in March 2026, with a $1,500 one-off payment, and higher pay increases (4%, 3.5% and 3%) 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.”
A spokesperson said the ABC continued to negotiate with staff and their representatives for a new enterprise agreement in good faith and remained committed to reaching an agreement which was equitable for all parties.
“The ABC is also committed to ensuring audiences experience as little disruption to services as possible during any industrial action.”