K-Mart Tyre and Auto Service (KTAS) is not your average AMWU workplace. AMWU organiser Matt Christie describes it best, “we can’t just stand in a lunchroom and talk to 60 people at once. We have over 130 members working as auto technicians and mechanics spread across 73 sites all over the state. It means we have to do things a little differently.”
Necessity, as is often the case, is the mother of invention. With workers entering negotiations for their next enterprise agreement they’ve started a campaign that combines traditional workplace visits and meetings with an online campaign that has allowed members and the union to connect with each other via SMS, Facebook and email.
“We’ve used online surveys and feedback to make sure that every member has a chance to be heard. And the end result has been a log of claims that focuses not only on the dollars and cents, but looks to protect existing RDOs, improve superannuation, increase the toolbox insurance and achieve greater leave flexibility.”
Unlike many other mechanics and dealerships, KTAS is not franchised. This means that a single union agreement can cover all work sites. Conditions for KTAS employees are superior to those working in individual car dealerships, where regular wage increases and RDOs are a rarity. And KTAS is one of the few employers that directly employ apprentices with an opportunity to keep them on once their apprenticeships are completed.
“The members at KTAS have it figured out, I reckon. They knew that it was going to be hard work to organise across so many worksites but agreed that if everyone rolls up their sleeves and works together, the outcomes will speak for themselves: regular wage increases, RDOs and other allowances that lead the auto tech industry,” Matt said.