|Issue No 49||07 April 2000|
Maria Wins Historic Email Test Case
A woman sacked for distributing union material over an office email system has won in a landmark case.
Australian Services Union delegate and Ansett worker Maria Gencarelli emerged from the Federal Court victorious after it held that the airline had breached the Workplace Relations Act in dismissing her.
Justice Ron Merkel found that Ansett's actions contravened freedom of association provisions in section 298k of the Workplace Relations Act. The penalty to be imposed upon the airline, and compensation for Ms Gencarelli, will be determined at a date yet to be set.
A vindicated Ms Gencarelli said "I obviously did not do anything wrong. I was merely communicating some enterprise bargaining discussions to my fellow members."
The ASU has hailed the outcome as a victory for the rights of all workers to use new technology, such as email, to communicate with each other.
ASU National Assistant Secretary, Linda White says this decision enshrines the rights of union delegates in the enterprise bargaining process to use company communications systems, and recognises that union delegates and representatives in workplaces have a vital role to play in enterprise bargaining.
"It sends a message to corporate Australia that delegates have rights, and that seeking to restrict these rights is a breach of the Workplace Relations Act," White says.
Ansett management had deemed the distribution of the newsletter - an update on enterprise bargaining negotiations - on the internal Internet system as an "unacceptable use of technology".
NSW Labor Council secretary Michael Costa says the win is a vindication of what the union movement has been arguing for some time: that workers should have the right to distribute union information in the workplace - whether on a noticeboard or an email system.
Costa says he's written this week to NSW Industrial Relations Mister Jeff Shaw asking him to look into the issue as a matter of urgency.
"Until we have a universal right to reasonable access, more cases like this will emerge," he says.
The ASU in Victoria is now planning to approach Liberty Victoria about jointly campaigning/lobbying the Bracks Government on the back of the court decision.
Congratulations can be sent to Maria at: mailto:[email protected]
For a details analysis of the decision see next week's Workers Online
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Last Modified: 15 Nov 2005