Right of entry of union officials

Analysis

Right of entry of union officials

Federal Parliament is currently considering theWorkplace Relations Amendment (Right of Entry) Bill 2004 which, if passed, will override state right of entry laws and restrict union entry for recruitment to once every six months.

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Federal Parliament is currently considering theWorkplace Relations Amendment (Right of Entry) Bill 2004  which, if passed, will override state right of entry laws and restrict union entry for recruitment to once every six months.

Currently, the right of union officials to enter workplaces to inspect time and wage records and to recruit new members can vary depending on the jurisdiction under which the employee's employment conditions are covered.

Federal awards, certified agreements, Victorian & Territories workers

TheWorkplace Relations Act 1996 [Cth] provides for the right of entry of a union official to gain access to a worksite.  There are two grounds by which a union official or employee of a union can enter a worksite. These are: to ensure compliance with legislation, and to hold discussions with employees.

An authorised union official may enter the employer's premises during working hours, upon giving 24 hours notice, if there is a suspected breach of the Act, federal award or certified agreement. The union official may inspect time sheets, pay sheets, and any other document relevant to the suspected breach (this does not include an Australian Workplace Agreement), inspect or view any work, machinery, etc relevant to the suspected breach; and, interview any employees who are members (or eligible to be members) of the union about the suspected breach.

The other ground upon which a union official may enter the employer's premises is for the purpose of holding discussions with on-site union members and employees who are not union members but are eligible to join that union. By giving 24 hours notice, a union official may only hold discussions with employees during meal times or other breaks.

Lunch rooms: There can be disputes as to the location of a union meeting within the premises, particularly the use of lunch rooms. It has been determined by various industrial tribunals that lunch rooms are used as a break from the pressures of work and that by having a union meeting in such a room results in competing interests in relation to its use. Therefore, the employer would be able to require the meeting to be held at a different locality within the employer's premises.

New South Wales

A union official can enter premises where there are employees who are members or eligible to be members of that union for the purposes of holding discussions in any lunch time or non-working time, or investigating any suspected breach of industrial relations legislation, award or enterprise agreement. No notice is necessary if the union official wishes to meet with employees outside working hours or during an unpaid lunch break. However, a union official must give 48 hours notice to an employer where entry is to investigate a suspected breach.

A union official may require the employer to produce, during the usual office hours at the employer's premises, or any other mutually agreed place, any employees' records or other documents kept by the employer that are related to the suspected breach. The union official may make copies of the entries in these records that relate to the suspected breach.

Queensland

Both theIndustrial Relations Act 1999 [Qld] and State awards contain a 'right of entry' provision which allows right of entry of an authorised union official to a workplace where the work performed falls within the registered coverage of the union. The union official is entitled to inspect such time and wage records of any former or current employee except if the employee is ineligible to be a member of the union or is a party to a QWA or ancillary document unless the employee grants permission for such inspection.

The union official is entitled to discuss with the employer, or a member or employee eligible to be a member of the union matters under the Industrial Relations Act during working or non-working hours; and any other matter with a member or employee eligible to become a member of the union, during non-working time. The union official may make a copy of any time and wage records. There would appear to be no requirement for the union official to give any notice of a visit to the employer's workplace.

South Australia

State awards normally contain a 'right of entry' provision which allows an authorised union official to enter premises where one or more union members are employed, to inspect time and wage records; to inspect the work carried out by union members and note the conditions under which work is carried out; interview union members who have a complaint about non-compliance with an award.

A union official is required to give 24 hours notice to the employer and state the reason for wishing to enter the premises. Access to union members is during meal breaks or tea breaks. Unless otherwise agreed, no right of entry can be exercised on the same premises more than once a week, and no more than one union official can gain entry at any one time.

Western Australia

State awards normally contain a 'right of entry' provision which allows an authorised union official to enter premises where there are members of that union to interview any worker on legitimate union business during the recognised meal hour of the worker on not more than one occasion in any week.

Tasmania

Under State legislation, union officials have the right to enter a workplace during working hours for the purpose of investigating an alleged breach of an award or agreement relating to members who are or were employed there. A union official who wants to investigate a possible breach must give the employer two days' notice of his or her intention. With the permission of the relevant employee, the union official may require the employer to produce the record of employment for that employee. The union official is entitled to inspect and copy the record of employment.

Union officials are permitted to enter workplaces where they have members and talk to or interview those employees at the worksite during working hours. The official is not required to give advance notice to an employer of an intended visit, but should report to the  person in charge of the workplace before proceeding to talk with or interview employees.

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