||Issue No. 244||29 October 2004|
Raking Over The Tea Leaves
Interview: The Last Bastian
Unions: High and Dry
Security: Liquid Borders
Industrial: No Bully For You
History: Radical Brisbane
International: No Vacancies
Economics: Life After Capitalism
Technology: Cyber Winners
Poetry: Do It Yourself Poetry
Review: Hard Labo(u)r
The Locker Room
Nothing To Stand On
It’s The End Of the World As We Know It (And I Feel Fine)
Dear Mark letter
Bosses Trip on Electrolux
AIRC senior vice president, Iain Ross, green-lighted controls on contract labour, prohibitions on AWAs and union entry rights contained in an NUW agreement covering employees at LK Ballantyne’s Laverton site.
The decision de-bunked the insistence of some industrial law firms that they could roll dozens of negotiated agreement because key clauses failed to "pertain" to the strict interpretation of the employer-employee relationship contained in the Workplace Relations Act.
Vice president Ross rejected the employers' contention that anything designed to strengthen the positions of unions, or their members, was illegal.
"The submissions of the Ai Group and ACCI almost seem to proceed on the assumption that clauses which give unions, or their representatives, rights are, almost be definition, not clauses which pertain to the employment relationship and hence cannot be included in a certified agreement.
"This is a false premise. The task to be undertaken is one of characterisation," Ross said.
Ross did, however, roll a clause providing for union fee deductions, along with another allowing union delegates access to new workers to discuss union matters.
Ross said certified agreements could contain clauses that were "machinery in nature, ancillary or incidental" to a matter that pertained to the employer-employee relationship.
He okayed the following clauses which employers had sought to have ruled illegal:
- an agreement to commence negotiations three months before the current deal expires
- indemnities for employees against damages claims
- casual employees, including those employed by a third party, to receive no less than terms contained in the agreement
- substitution of public holidays
- trade union training leave
- a commitment not to introduce AWAs during the life of the agreement
- union notice board obligation on employer
- paid time off for union delegates
- time off for paid union meetings
- right of entry
- requirement on employer to keep time and wages records
NUW Victorian secretary, Martin Pakula, called the decision a "fantastic result" that meant, with some "minor changes", unions could could negotiate as normal.
Attention will now turn to Perth where Westfarmers Coal is seeking unspecified damages from the AMWU, WA state officials and four Collie delegates on the grounds that "protected" action was, in fact, "unprotected" because, under Electrolux principles, some claims did not pertain to the employer-employee relationship.
This case takes the Electrolux argument one step further, testing the ability of employers to financially cripple unions if claims are subsequently found not to pertain.
Westfarmers, represented by Clayton Utz, has taken exception to half a dozen claims, including right of entry, controls on contracting, delegate education and local government representation leave.
Its arguments will go before Justice French, in the Federal Court, this week.
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