A push by BlueScope to alter superannuation provisions could derail already tense negotiations for a new agreement, said a workplace official.
The steelmaker is not looking to abandon superannuation but rather remove it from the agreement.
Australian Workers Union NSW Senior Vice President Paul Farrow said he believed the move was because provisions in the agreement were legally “enforceable”.
However a BlueScope spokesman said the clause as it stands is “not consistent with the intent of the clause”.
Mr Farrow said company negotiators put the proposal forward in the latest round of talks on a new deal.
He said it was linked to a BlueScope appeal of a Federal Court decision it had incorrectly calculated super payments for six workers.
The AWU said the six were typical of many employees on the same agreement.
If the decision is upheld, the steelmaker could owe workers millions of dollars in back-pay.
“If this judgement comes down in our favour from the Full Bench appeal then they’re going to try to make sure going forward they don’t have to continue to pay that obligation,” Mr Farrow said.
“They want to take it out of the enterprise agreement and turn it into company policy which means they can water it down.”
There is a minimum guarantee for superannuation payments of 9.5 per cent.
Mr Farrow said some workers at BlueScope were on higher superannuation rates – which could disappear if not “locked up in an enterprise agreement (EA)”.
“It means that the policy can change at any time without agreement so there would be no protection other than the minimum superannuation guarantee, which is 9.5 per cent,” Mr Farrow said.
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“It means that anything they’ve got over and above that could be lost.”
Mr Farrow said the union wasn’t focusing on the superannuation issue as a key factor now, but admitted it could cause problems in negotiating a new agreement.
“Because we’re so far apart on money and conditions this is a side issue,” he said,
“If we reach agreement on money and conditions and this is still on the table, this potentially could be a derailing factor.”
The BlueScope spokesman said it was “appropriate” to remove the clause.
“The company is proposing that superannuation can be dealt with separately under a Memorandum of Understanding which the parties can agree after the Full Federal Court decision has been issued,” he said.
“Despite the superannuation clause being removed from the EA, BlueScope will continue paying its superannuation contributions in accordance with the Superannuation Guarantee (Administration) Act 1992 and the existing BlueScope co-contribution scheme.”