Fair Work laws make it too easy to strike —  ACCI and AMMA

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Fair Work laws make it too easy to strike — ACCI and AMMA

The Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry and the Australian Mines and Metals Association are both intervening in an appeal before Fair Work Australia to require unions to undertake genuine enterprise bargaining before taking industrial action.

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The Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (ACCI) and the Australian Mines and Metals Association (AMMA) are both intervening in an appeal before Fair Work Australia to require unions to undertake genuine enterprise bargaining before taking industrial action.
 
In a recent transport sector decision (JJ Richards and Sons v TWU), the tribunal found that the Fair Work Act 2009 allowed a union to proceed to a ballot on industrial action, despite the fact that bargaining had not commenced and the union had not made its claims known to the employer.
 
David Gregory, director of Workplace Policy for ACCI made these comments yesterday:
‘At issue in this case are the laws about bargaining and enterprise agreement making and, in particular, when legal industrial action can be taken.
 
Something is wrong with the Fair Work laws if a union that has not actually made its claims known to an employer can take industrial action — especially when the tribunal has found that bargaining between the parties has not commenced.’
 
This case is an important litmus test as to whether the Fair Work laws make it too easy for unions to go on strike.’
The Government told employers these new laws would facilitate cooperative bargaining and agreement making that would boost productivity growth and that the good faith provisions would enable orders to be obtained directing the behaviour of bargaining parties.
 
ACCI believes a party wanting to show it is genuinely engaged in bargaining should, at the very least, be able to demonstrate it has sought to take advantage of these new provisions to achieve an outcome before resort can be had to processes that lead to disruptive industrial action.
 
We should not accept a situation where a union can make an initial contact with an employer and then nine months later, with no further dealings with the business, move to initiate industrial action. That is not a cooperative and collaborative system at work.
 
The ACCI submission is available online.
 
AMMA — similar view
 
Resource Industry Employer Group, AMMA has also intervened in the appeal before Fair Work Australia.
 
With two-thirds of the resource sector’s agreements about to commence expiring, Geoff Bull, AMMA’s Workplace Policy Director, who sought leave to intervene in the matter ‘holds grave concerns for its members in the event the decision is not overturned’.
 
‘Under the Fair Work laws, there is now a real danger that unions can take strike action against employers, even in situations where the employer has no knowledge about what the claims are, and irrespective of whether the majority of workers want the action to proceed,’ Bull said.
 
‘This is a serious concern for the resource sector and its future productivity, leaving AMMA members unreasonably exposed to strike activity.’
 
‘It is well accepted that productivity in workplaces takes a direct hit, every time strike activity occurs. It’s imperative strike activity is the last resort in every workplace.’
 
‘How can it be said that unions or employers are bargaining in “good faith” if the Fair Work laws allow unions to bypass their obligations to “genuinely” try to reach an agreement — before they take strike action?’
 
‘As it stands, this decision opens the doors to unions taking strike action as a first resort and before the employer and workforce are even aware of the claims,’ Bull said.
 
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