Industry employer group AMMA says it is disappointed at the decision handed down by Fair Work Australia on industrial action procedure.
It had appealed against a decision concerning the ability of unions to apply to take protected industrial action before bargaining with an employer has begun.
AMMA chief executive Steve Knott said the full bench of Fair Work Australia had rejected the appeal.
“The full bench today paved the way for a minority of workplace to perpetrate industrial carnage by taking protected industrial action against the wishes of the majority of a workforce,” he said.
Knott said AMMA’s concern with the decision “is not limited to the fact it paves the way for a small group of union members to wreak havoc at a workplace.”
“The way the legislation is being interpreted means while a minority of employees are now able to take protected action before bargaining begins, employers are not able to take protected industrial action or ‘employer response action’ against it – because employers can only take such action during the bargaining process.”
“Such a situation is manifestly unfair to employers and flies in the face of the assurances given to employers when the government first introduced it’s changes to the nation’s industrial legislation.
“AMMA is keen for the minister to clarify this issue as a matter or priority.
“Is such a situation created by design, or is it because the legislation is actually poorly designed?” Knott asked.
He original decision involved waste management company JJ Richards and Sons and the Transport Workers Union in 2010, where commissioner Greg Harrison upheld the union’s right to apply to take protected industrial action despite the fact bargaining had not yet commenced.
Knott said a subsequent full bench appeal upheld by Harrison’s findings but said the union would have to re-apply for a secret ballot order due to a technicality.
The union then re-appealed and a decision handed down in February granted the union’s ballot application.
“AMMA, together with JJ Richards, filed an appeal against that decision,” Knott said yesterday.
“Today the full bench rejected this latest appeal – finding has the legislature intended a protected action ballot order not be available until an employer agreed to bargain, the wording of the Fair Work Act would have made that clear.
“The decision also found there was no need for unions to seek majority support determinations or other orders from the tribunal before embarking on industrial action based on the whim of the minority.”
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