Western Australian ministers gain power to dispute strike action

Technical changes to the Fair Work system, made by the Commonwealth
this week, will allow a third party impacted by strike action to apply to the
Fair Work Commission (FWC) to suspend or terminate that action.

Resource industry employer group Australian Mines and Metals
Association chief executive Steve Knott said the new regulation will allow a
minister of a state which has not referred its industrial relations powers to
the Commonwealth, to apply to the Fair Work Commission for the suspension or
termination of protected industrial action.

“Such a power exists presently for the ministers of all the
states except for Western Australia, where industrial action often threatens
both state operations and international trade activities of great national
significance,” he said.

“This move recognises
that strike action sometimes has far broader impacts than just the direct
parties, including hurting employers and employees on both sides of the supply
chain and disrupting economic activities more widely.

“Ultimately, the Fair Work Commission will decide how it
deals with these matters on a case-by-case basis, but clearly any workplace
system that allows a third party to be so heavily impacted by strike action
should be amended so they can state their case to the tribunal.”

Recent disputes between the AMMA and Maritime Union of
Australia (MUA) have resulted in approval of industrial action from Fair Work
Australia for tugboat deckhands employed by Teekay Shipping at the Port Hedland.

Strike action at the iron ore loading facility were expected
to cost the industry somewhere in the order of $100 million per day of
protected action, however the MUA delayed strike action in order to continue
negotiations.

Knott said the cost of such a strike action to the state of
Western Australia would be substantial.

“At a state level, such a stoppage would cost Western Australian
taxpayers around $7 million per day in revenue foregone in lost iron ore
royalties,” he said.

“Over three days that is the entire state budget for
homeless support or the cost of building a new primary school.

“There is also a greater cost to consider to our
international reputation as a reliable supplier of resource commodities. This
reputation has been hard won but can be easily lost.

“Australia does not have a monopoly on such exports and
provisions such as those introduced by the government this week will assist in
minimising the impact of unnecessary strike action on our national reputation
and global competitiveness.”

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