New measures will soon be introduced to better enforce lawful and responsible use of entry permits as a step in the right direction to fixing the burden of excessive and disruptive union visits to Australian workplaces.
Minister for Jobs and Industrial Relations, the Hon Kelly O’Dwyer MP, announced on 15 February that reforms would be made to the current paper-based right of entry permits, which she described as “impractical, easy to damage, outdated and vulnerable to abuse”.
Under the Government’s proposed changes to the Fair Work Regulations 2009, the Fair Work Commission would be given the ability to issue right of entry permits in an ID card format that must include a photo of the authorised permit holder and any relevant permit conditions.
Right of entry notice forms would also be updated to clearly state the rules that all parties must follow when right of entry is being exercised.
“”These changes are sensible, practical reforms that will ensure right of entry permits and claims are not misused by those seeking to do the wrong thing,” Minister O’Dwyer said.
“Worryingly, we have seen examples of people misrepresenting their identity or falsely claiming to be authorised permit holders – these changes will help protect against those who do the wrong thing.”
The move has been welcomed by AMMA, with the resources and energy group long calling for reform of the Fair Work system for union workplace entry, which in practice sees unions handed near unfettered access to workplaces primarily seeking to recruit new members.
“The Australian Government’s intention to overhaul union workplace entry permits is welcome and long overdue. It shouldn’t be too much to ask, in 2019, that authorisation to enter a private workplace involves photo ID and lists any relevant conditions,” AMMA Acting CEO, Tara Diamond, said.
“This is a welcome first step towards addressing the longstanding issue of excessive union workplace entries under the Fair Work Act, and will be particularly beneficial to the building and construction sector which has seen almost-daily abuse of these rights by union representatives.”
Changes to right of entry notice forms will also address compliance issues with right of entry laws.
In 2017-18, the Australian Building and Construction Commission made 72 investigations into alleged contraventions of right of entry laws by both permit holders and occupiers.
Ms Diamond said despite these changes, much more will be needed to properly reform the Fair Work system for union site entry, which has been a “longstanding fundamental issues” of the current workplace legislation.
“Resources and energy employers continue to be unfairly exposed to the absurd costs, delays, productivity impacts and safety issues associated with the thousands of site entry requests they receive each year,” she said.
“The system must be reviewed and overhauled to properly balance fair and appropriate access by employee representatives with the cost, disruption and productivity impacts of unfettered visits by unions seeking to boost their membership numbers.”
A 2018 survey of resources and energy employers revealed more than 50 per cent had their workplace adversely affected by the frequency and impact of union access. In 2016, KPMG research estimated the cost of union visits to 100 major projects to be more than $5 million annually.
For more information, contact [email protected]
Watch this video to learn more about the impact of union site entry under the Fair Work Act: