|Issue No 115||12 October 2001|
Freeloader Fees Get Green Light
Jonathan Hamberger's anti-union tactics took a blow today with the AIRC full bench upholding the right of unions to collect bargaining fees from non-members.
Hamberger had challenged the ETU's right to have a bargaining agents clause inserted in over 1000 electrical contracting agreements covering 9000 workers. It states that "the company will advise all current and existing employees that a Bargaining Agents' fee of $500 per annum is payable to the ETU."
Workplace Express reports that the Full Bench found the clause wasn't an objectionable clause under s298Z of the Workplace Relations Act 1996, upholding a February decision by Vice President Tony McIntyre.
Hamberger had tried to claim that the clause subjected non-members to a detriment in breach of s298K(1), for a prohibited reason under s298(1) relating to their non-membership.
The bench cited four reasons for rejecting Hamberger's position:
1. The clause doesn't require employers to discriminate between members and non- members when offering terms of employment.
2. The discriminatory action alleged wouldn't arise until the union waived the bargaining fee for members. But such an action wouldn't be a breach of s298K(1), which only covers conduct by an employer.
3. The bargaining fee clause binds employees via the contract of employment and the agreement and can't be waived by the CEPU. The likelihood that the fee obligations will only be enforced against non-members doesn't alter the legal character of the obligations.
4. A term in an agreement can't constitute adverse conduct under s298K(1), so no question of a proscribed reason under s298L(1) arises.
The ETU's Victorian secretary, Dean Mighell, said the decision "righted a very old wrong" and gave the green light for unions to ensure that "freeloading" workers paid their way.
The CEPU also has included a $500 fee in its fifth round of negotiations with Australia Post.
The CFMEU in Qld has been investigating the use of such a clause and attempts have been made to introduce it in the private transport sector. The AMIEU has such a clause in some of its enterprise agreements. The AMWU has a clause recognising the union as the sole bargaining agents in enterprise negotiations, as well as a clause requiring the $500 fee in some agreements.
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Workplace: The Enemy Within
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Unions: From the Virtual Coalface
Computer programmer Vince Caughley argues there is a place for unions in the IT industry.
History: Conditions Precedent
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International: Victims of Terrorism
Repression against trade unionists on the increase world wide, with 209 trade unionists assassinated last year, reveals ICFTU 2001 Survey.
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Economics: Global Alliances
Ray Marcelo reports from India that the ILO is arguing that globalisation needs a worker and employer alliance.
Health: The Phantom Menace
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Review: Rings of Confidence
In his study on the 2000 Olympics, Tony Webb argues that the government and unions reached a new level of cooperation.
Satire: Greens 'Quietly Unconfident' of Forming Government
A leaked memo from a senior member of the Greens reveals the party is unconfident of winning government on November 10.
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