RESOURCE industry employer group AMMA, has today lodged an appeal in an ongoing dispute about a decision that has allowed a union to pursue strike activity at a worksite, despite not having the majority support of workers.
AMMA Chief Executive, Steve Knott said left unchallenged, the FWA determination (link below) will facilitate a union being capable of bringing a workplace to a standstill despite representing a minority of employees.
“This position goes against everything the resource sector was led to believe by the government in relation to how the laws would operate once they were passed.
“Unless overturned there will be serious consequences for Australian employers,” Mr Knott said.
Mr Knott said a union being able to initiate and take strike action against the wishes of the majority of the workforce is an undemocratic exercise which was never countenanced in the drafting of the Act.
“Resource sector employers respect the wishes of their workforce but do not want to be subject to damaging industrial action by the actions of a minority of workers who don’t represent the majority views of the workforce.” Mr Knott said.
At the centre of the ongoing dispute is Fair Work Australia’s finding that a bargaining agent, in this case the Transport Workers Union, does not need to obtain the support of a majority of workers at a site before applying to Fair Work Australia to take protected strike action in the absence of the employer’s willingness to bargain.
Commissioner Harrison in his latest decision which granted the TWU’s protected action ballot application, supported the findings of an earlier majority Full Bench ruling in the same matter.
This decision held that where an employer refuses to bargain for a collective agreement and without any evidence of majority support by its workforce for bargaining, a union does not first have to obtain a ‘majority support determination’ before taking protected strike action.
“AMMA maintains that a majority support determination is a fundamental pre-requisite introduced in the Fair Work Act before any protected industrial action can be taken where the employer does not want to bargain,” AMMA’s Chief Executive, Steve Knott said.
“Fair Work Australia’s decision clearly flies in the face of the intent of the legislation when it was first introduced by then Deputy Prime Minister and Workplace Relations Minister, Julia Gillard.
“When the Fair Work Act was first presented to the Australian public, we were told any protected strike activity could only take place during the bargaining period. Where the employer refused to bargain then the union must seek approval from the majority of the workforce to commence the bargaining process.
“The Act was never intended to operate in the way some members of the Tribunal are interpreting its provisions, this needs to be corrected.
To view the JJ Richards decision click here.