Showing posts with label unions. Show all posts
Showing posts with label unions. Show all posts

Tuesday, 13 March 2018

FAIR GO 101: It's Time To Change The Rules

Monday, 12 March 2018

Employer groups put pressure on Turnbull Government to stifle union mergers

In 2017 members of the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU), The Maritime Union of Australia (MUA) and the Textile, Clothing and Footwear Union of Australia (TCFUA) considered a proposal to amalgamate into one union or alternatively to amalgamate only the CFMEU and the MUA.

The ballot was conducted by the Australian Electoral Commission (AEC) and results declared on 28 November 2017. There appears to have been no irregularities affecting the ballot outcome.

The Fair Work Commission handed down a decision giving effect to the CFMEU and MUA amalgamation on 27 March 2018.

Employer groups Australian Mines and Metals Association (AMMA) and Master Builders Australia (MBA) are now appealing the Commission’s decision.

The Australian, 9 March 2018, p.2.

Employers have taken legal ­action to try to overturn the Fair Work Commission decision ­approving the merger of the construction and maritime unions.

The Australian Mines and Metals Association and Master Builders Australia yesterday ­appealed the decision to a ­commission full bench.

The employers are also seeking a stay of the decision, which, if granted, would mean the merger would not proceed from its scheduled date of March 27.

The AMMA and MBA say the commission decision contained errors of laws and should not have approved the amalgamation.

Maritime Union of Australia national secretary Paddy Crumlin said the unions would vigorously oppose the appeal and defend the rights of workers to have freedom of association.

“Our members have overwhelmingly supported this amalgamation (with the CFMEU) and it should be up to them to decide whether they merge,” he said.

Former employment minister Eric Abetz welcomed the ­appeal, saying the government should intervene in the proceedings in support of the employer application. He said the government should move urgently to pass laws subjecting union ­mergers to a public interest test.

Workplace Relations Minister Craig Laundy said the government would resume talks with Senate crossbenchers in a bid to win support for the bill, which has yet to be put to a vote.

AMMA is lobbying for an amendment to the bill designed to have the public interest test take affect before March 27 but Mr Laundy declined to express a view on the proposed amendment.

The Australian, 8 March 2018:

Employers have accused the Turnbull government of being missing in action after the Coalition failed to pass laws subjecting union mergers to a public interest test.

Workplace Relations Minister Craig Laundy said today the government would resume talks with Senate crossbenchers in a bid to win support for the bill, which has yet to be put to a Senate vote.

 “The Ensuring Integrity Bill remains a priority for the Government, but because of Labor’s opposition we need the support of the crossbench,’’ he said.

“Despite what has been said in recent days, the Government simply didn’t have the numbers to pass the Bill. I am reaching out to the crossbench to see if that has changed.

Sunday, 12 November 2017

ACTU claims that Turnbull Government's changes to the superannuation industry will make it easier for employers to steal workers' superannuation

Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU), media release, 1 November 2017:

The Australian Council of Trade Unions has warned that the government’s changes to the superannuation industry will make it easier for employers to steal workers’ superannuation, in addition to giving the big banks access to workers’ super.

Independent research shows that $5.6 billion of super is unpaid every year, causing millions of Australians’ financial security to be placed in jeopardy. Jim Stanford - Director of  the Centre for Future Work, reported that wage suppression and unpaid super could result in workers being short-changed $100bn by the time they retire.

Unions are warning that this will increase with the government’s changes, as it will make it harder for unions to ensure employers are paying workers' super.

Quotes attributable to ACTU President, Ged Kearney:

“Ensuring workers super is paid to the default industry fund is a difficult job for workers and their unions. Too many employers are trying to get away with avoiding their obligations already. Opening this up to allow in the banks will make it harder to ensure workers are paid properly. 

“The government’s changes will mean that workers’ super payments will be accessible to the big banks, and that as a result, it will be harder to ensure employers are paying workers their super.

“By removing single fund provisions from bargaining arrangements, the government is attacking people’s chance of a dignified retirement, by making it harder for unions to ensure that workers are being paid what they're meant to be paid.

“When workplaces have a single fund, super funds work with employers to ensure they are paying their workers the right amount of super, and on time. If the government gets its way good employers will find it harder, and unscrupulous employers will abuse the confusion and steal workers’ retirement incomes.

“Every year, billions of dollars in super is not paid to working people. It puts their future financial security at risk. Unions spend a lot of time ensuring workers super is being paid. Increasing the amounts of funds will make this work more time and labour intensive.

“We are deeply troubled that the government would make changes to super which will not address the massive theft of workers’ super, but in fact make it worse.

“Instead, the government has decided to attack working people, open up their financial security to the scandal plagued big banks, and make it harder for unions to do their job standing up for working people.”

“We urge the parliament to block the government’s superannuation bills to ensure workers financial security is protected in better performing industry super.”

Tuesday, 31 October 2017

Coalition senators cut and ran from their own Ensuring Integrity bill

Amends the Fair Work (Registered Organisations) Act 2009 to: include certain serious criminal offences as a new category of ‘prescribed offence’ for the purposes of the automatic disqualification regime in relation to registered organisations; establish an offence for a disqualified person to continue to act as an official or in a way that influences the affairs of an organisation; allow the Federal Court to prohibit officials from holding office in certain circumstances or if they are otherwise not a fit and proper person; allow the Federal Court to cancel the registration of an organisation on a range of grounds; allow applications to be made to the Federal Court for a range of other orders; expand the grounds on which the Federal Court may order remedial action to deal with governance issues in an organisation; expressly provide that the Federal Court may appoint an administrator to an organisation or part of an organisation as part of a remedial scheme; introduce a public interest test for amalgamations of registered organisations; and make minor and technical amendments.

The Australian Senate refused to support this bill on 17 October 2017 so the Turnbull Government read the bill a second time, had a short speech read into Hansard and immediately adjourned the debate.

The Senate next sits on 13 November 2017 and one suspects that attempts to swing the cross benchers towards supporting this bill has ratcheted up more than a few notches.

If you don’t agree with this almost constant attack on the existence of unions in Australia then your state senators can be contacted here.

Saturday, 28 October 2017

The perception that Turnbull & Co are conducting a political witch hunt is not going to go away anytime soon

Maurice Blackburn Lawyers, media release, 27 October 2017:

Timetable set for Federal Court action on unprecedented raids

A court timetable has been set in the AWU’s fight to challenge the validity of this week’s unprecedented police raids launched by the Registered Organisations Commission (ROC) on the union’s Sydney and Melbourne offices.

Maurice Blackburn Lawyers, who are representing the AWU, said today that court orders confirming a timetable for the case had been agreed to by all parties, removing the need for a Federal Court directions hearing that had been scheduled for this morning in Melbourne.

Maurice Blackburn Principal Josh Bornstein said critically that the orders were made together with commitments from both the ROC and AFP that no documents seized in this week’s raids by the AFP will be handed over to the ROC until the court has heard the case.

Mr Bornstein said the union's case compromised two key parts, namely: 
That the raid conducted by the AFP was illegal; and
That the investigation by the ROC is illegal because it is politically motivated.

“Prior to these raids, the union had handed over disclosure statements from 10 years ago in relation to Get Up donations to the ROC, but in doing so had pressed the regulator to provide it with information about the political interference by the Turnbull government in this matter.

“Disturbingly, the ROC has refused to hand over all file notes of its communications with Minister Cash and her office and we  will continue to seek all such documents as part of the federal court case,” he said.

Under the agreed timetable evidence must be obtained from all parties next month, with the respondents required to file their defence by 1 December 2017. A substantive hearing will be held in December at a date to be set, following the filing of defences.


In 2015 the Royal Commission into Trade Union Governance and Corruption considered matters relating to seven unions, one of which was the Australian Workers Union (AWU).

AWU activity during the years 2003-2010 were examined by the Royal Commission, including financial records which would have included donations by AWU to outside organisations/groups, including the $100k donation to the activist groupGetUp!

No evidence appears to have been presented during Commission hearings relating to GetUp! or to the 2006 AWU donation to this group and, there were no adverse findings made against Bill Shorten in the Commission's December 2015 Final Report.

As far as I’m aware a reporting unit such as the Australian Workers Union New South Wales Branch or Australian Workers Victorian Branch is only legally obliged to hold records for 7 years and it appears Ms. Cash was ignoring the fact that a) there was no obligation to supply her with this so-called evidence and b) these documents could have been lawfully disposed of anytime after 2013 if the union had so decided.

On 20 October 2017 in response to Senator Cash’s referral ROC began an investigation into the AWU.

Despite that fact ROC applied for search warrants for AWU branch offices in Sydney and Melbourne and these were issued before 10am on 24 October 2017.

The Australian Federal Police scheduled what it thought was an unpublicized search late on the afternoon of 24 October 2017.

Police were greeted outside the union offices by an assorted collection of mainstream print and television media who had been alerted to the time and place of the ‘raid’ by Senator Cash’s office.

An unknown number of union records were removed by the police.

Financial Review, excerpt from Media leaks about AFP AWU raids a disaster for Turnbull, Cash and government, 26 October 2017:

Thursday, 14 September 2017

Turnbull Government's Australian Building and Construction Commissioner resigns ahead of court sentancing contravening the Fair Work Act

It appears that the Abbott and Turnbull federal governments’ chosen anti-union attack dog has feet of clay…………………….
This is what the Australian Building and Construction Commission (ABCC) has to say about its agency head as late as 12 September 2017:
Nigel Hadgkiss, APM, became the Australian Building and Construction Commissioner on 2 December 2016 with the re-establishment of the Australian Building and Construction Commission (ABCC).  Nigel has held a number of high-profile roles in both state and federal government agencies with a focus on both law enforcement and construction industry regulation, including:
Director Fair Work Building & Construction (FWBC);
Director, Construction Code Compliance, Victorian Department of Treasury and Finance;
Executive Director, Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions NSW;
Deputy Commissioner, ABCC;
Director, Building Industry Taskforce;
National Director of Intelligence, Australian Crime Commission; and
Assistant Commissioner, Australian Federal Police
In 2007, while Deputy Commissioner of the ABCC, Nigel was credited with bringing a remarkable era of peace and productivity to the nation's building sites.[i]
Nigel commenced his career with the Hong Kong Police Force. During his career he has led many high profile investigations and inquiries, and served on three Australian Royal Commissions. Between 1972 and 1998, he received 15 commendations, including two from District Court Judges, three from Supreme Court Judges, and one from a Chief Justice. Between 1994 and 1996, he was the Director of Operations at the Wood Royal Commission into the New South Wales Police Force.  During that secondment, Nigel was awarded the Australian Police Medal (APM) for distinguished service in the 1995 Queen’s Birthday Honours List. Later that year, the Australian Federal Police promoted him to Assistant Commissioner. In 1997 Nigel was invited to Toronto to appear before a Royal Commission examining the wrongful conviction of a man for first degree murder. He assisted the Commissioner in formulating recommendations to improve the administration of criminal justice in Ontario.
Nigel holds Bachelor of Laws and Masters of Commerce degrees from the University of New South Wales.  As a Winston Churchill Fellow, in 1989 he spent five months in Northern Ireland, Italy, Switzerland, Germany, England, the USA and Canada studying Comparative Methods for Combating Organised Crime.  In 1998 Nigel was invited to York University, Toronto, as a Visiting Fellow to Canada’s largest law school, Osgoode Hall, for their 1999 winter semester. Later that year he presented seminars at All Souls College, Oxford University, and at the Inner Temple Hall of the Inner Temple Inn of Court, London.
Since 1996 Nigel has been: a member of the RMIT University’s Business Management Course Advisory Committee; a Board Member of the Australian Institute of Criminology; Chair of the Commonwealth’s Executive Leadership Group Victoria; a Board Member of the Industry Advisory Board for the Centre of Business Forensics at the University of Queensland; an Adjunct Professor with the University of Queensland’s Business School; and Chair of the Audit Committee of the Australian Institute of Criminology.

[i] The Australian Financial Review Magazine, October 2007 p.121.

On 12 September 2017 The Australian revealed another side to this gentleman:
Nigel Hadgkiss appearing at a hearing into the Fair Work Building and Construction at Parliament House in Canberra
Australian Building and Construction Commissioner Nigel Hadgkiss has admitted to contravening the Fair Work Act, sparking fresh calls by the construction union for him to resign.
In an embarrassment to the Coalition, Mr Hadgkiss will face a civil penalty hearing in the Federal Court on Friday.
In an agreed statement of facts tendered in court today, Mr Hadgkiss admitted that in December 2013 he directed that looming changes to right of entry laws — that were beneficial to unions and workers — not be published by the agency.
The Coalition won the federal election in September 2013 but the previous Labor government had passed changes to the right of entry laws that came into operation on January 1, 2014.
Before the amendments, a union official had to follow a reasonable request by an employer about where they could hold site discussions with workers.
Under the ALP changes, the employer was no longer authorised to give such a request. If no agreement could be reached, the union official could meet workers in their regular meal room for discussion.
According to the statement of agreed facts, Mr Hadgkiss met two senior agency staff on December 19, 2013 and directed that no changes be made to agency educational material to reflect the new law.
A senior agency staffer said he told another senior employee that there was a political and legal risk associated with withholding the information. The employee agreed, saying he raised his concerns with Mr Hadgkiss but he was adamant “he didn’t want us to change anything”.
Mr Hadgkiss argued the then Employment Minister Eric Abetz has promised to repeal the amendments when federal parliament resumed in 2014. He believed the amendments would be repealed and changes to the educational material would have to be reversed.
But the amendments have not been repealed and remain the law.
Construction Forestry Mining and Energy Union national construction secretary, Dave Noonan said Mr Hadgkiss should resign or be sacked by Employment Minister Michaelia Cash.
“It’s a very serious matter when the regulator breaks the same laws they are supposed to be enforcing,’’ he said. “Can you imagine if the head of the ACCC admitted to breaching the Corporations Act?
According to the Remuneration Tribunal, Mr Hadgkiss receives a taxpayer-funded salary of $426,160 a year.
Asked if Senator Cash still had confidence in Mr Hadgkiss, her spokesman said “the matter is still being determined by the court and it would therefore be inappropriate to comment at this stage”.
Opposition workplace relations spokesman Brendan O’Connor said Senator Cash had “allowed her regulator to intentionally operate in breach of the very legislation which he is authorised to enforce”.
“Unless and until the Minister publicly denounces Commissioner Hadgkiss and takes appropriate action, any comments she makes about upholding the rule of law are hollow and insincere,’’ he said.
ACTU secretary Sally McManus said Senator Cash must sack Mr Hadgkiss.
“Surely the person who has the highest responsibility, a greater responsibility, to abide by industrial laws is the person in charge of upholding them,’’ she said.
“If a police chief recklessly broke the law, which Nigel Hadgkiss has admitted to, their position would in untenable and there would be consequences. If a worker fails to follow workplace laws they can be sacked.
“Michaelia Cash is calling for the sacking of union leaders — what standard will she apply to her own employee who is in charge of upholding her laws?”
Mr Hadgkiss admitted to contravening section 503 (1) of the Fair Work Act which says a person must not take action with the intention of giving the impression, “or reckless as to whether the impression is given that the doing of a thing is authorised when it is not.
Mr Noonan said Mr Hadgkiss admitted “his conduct was reckless”.
“We believe the result of that recklessness is that the industry was misled on a key issue affecting workers’ rights,” he said.
“He has taken great care to bring multiple prosecutions against unions and workers over right of entry breaches, but has failed to conduct himself with reasonable care in relation to these same laws, and in particular those parts of the laws which extend some benefit or protection to workers.
“Mr Hadgkiss’s position as a regulator is compromised and untenable, and he should resign immediately,’
The consequence of the direction by Mr Hadgkiss was that a fact sheet, poster and pocket guide available for download on the agency website was not changed until July last year.
An article detailing the right of entry changes was published on the agency intranet for staff on January 9 2014.
It said given the changes will be “rolled back in the future”, staff should only provide advice about them if specifically asked, and presentation should not include slides about the new provisions.
On January 9 2014, Jeff Radisich, executive director of northwest operations, asked Adam Copp, the agency director of stakeholder engagement, whether the roll back would occur.
“I thought we would be stuck with these provisions until the Senate change over in July,’’ he wrote. “If that’s the case we are running something of a political and industrial risk by withholding info on the law as it currently stands.”
Mr Copp replied “to be honest, I do share your concerns and talked to Nigel about it last year”.
“However, he was absolutely adamant that he didn’t want us to change anything as the government intention is to change the legislation. He said he was extremely comfortable handling it in (Senate) estimates or the media or wherever. He felt pretty strongly about it.”
Mr Hadgkiss eventually directed the fact sheet, poster and pocket guide be withdrawn last year after Mr Noonan wrote to him in July last year, saying they misrepresented the requirements of the Fair Work Act.
A spokesman for Mr Hadgkiss said he would not comment as the matter was before the courts.
In the statement of agreed facts, Mr Hadgkiss admitted he had not read the fact sheet, poster or pocket guide prior to reviewing for the purpose of the current court case. Nor was he aware of their specific content.
He admitted he had not studied the right of entry amendments or the amending act but relied on media reports and commentary at the time to get an understanding of the broad nature of the amendments.
He said he “did not intend, believe or advert to the possibility” that an impression would be given that something was authorised by the Fair Work Act when it was not authorised.
However he accepted that he could reasonably have been expected to have foreseen the continued availability of the fact sheet, poster and pocket guide could give the impression the pre-2014 legal position remained.
Mr Noonan said the CFMEU has raised objections about the ABCC materials since 2014.
“For over two years, from 2014 until the CFMEU complained to the ABCC in 2016, multiple ABCC publications on right of entry laws did not accurately describe this provision, and incorrectly asserted that union officials had to comply with the employer’s wishes on the location of meetings,’’ he said.
“While the ABCC had ensured the correct legal position was known internally to its own staff, it disseminated incorrect information to the public and across the industry.”
The maximum fine faced by Mr Hadgkiss for the breach is $12,600.

Mr Hadgkiss will face a civil penalty hearing in the Federal Court tomorrow, Friday 15 September 2017.
Readers may remember that this is not the first time Mr. Hadgkiss has exceeded his brief.
The Sydney Morning Herald, 4 October 2014:
ABCC deputy commissioner at the time, Hadgkiss summoned Tribe to a compulsory interrogation, which Tribe refused to attend. He risked six months in prison but a magistrate ruled that only the ABCC commissioner had the power to issue the summons and he had not lawfully delegated that power to Hadgkiss. The ruling effectively ended the ABCC's widespread use of coercive powers.

Then there is Hadgkiss’ penchant for selectively relying on the Murdoch media for his erroneous information.

By 13 September 2017 it became obvious that the Minister for Employment and Liberal Senator for Western Australia Michaelia Cash had decided to put a lid on the situation - possibly in the hope that nothing more concerning the ABCC entered the public domain - applied something like the 'three strikes' rule and announced that Nigel Hadgkiss was no longer employed:

Mr Nigel Hadgkiss APM has today tendered his resignation as Commissioner of the Australian Building and Construction Commission, which has been accepted by the Government..............Mr Hagdkiss will serve a two week transition period to facilitate a handover of his responsibilities to an acting Commissioner.

Closing the stable door after the horse hand bolted did not save the minister from her own folly however.

It seems Senator Cash had been aware of Hadgkiss' breach of industrial relations law since October 2016 ans sat on this information.
Apparently the national electorate is to believe that she was so disinterested in her portfolio that she missed this media report published almost two month earlier.

The Australian, 22 August 2016:

The construction union claims taxpayer-funded information being handed out by the building industry watchdog is reckless and illegal.

The CFMEU on Monday began action seeking penalties in the Federal Court in Sydney against Nigel Hadgkiss, the director of the Fair Work Building Industry Inspectorate.

The union says pocket guides and posters misrepresent the right to entry provisions of the Fair Work Act, which stipulate union officials are permitted to meet with employees in lunch sheds where other arrangements are not mutually agreed to.

Mr Hadgkiss told AAP in a statement: “It is inappropriate to comment on an action of this nature whilst the matter is before the court.”

CFMEU national construction division secretary Dave Noonan said Mr Hadgkiss should know better.

“It’s galling to think that Mr Hadgkiss, whose organisation have charged themselves with solely and doggedly policing right of entry disputes between the union and employers, would have promoted and distributed such critically false information,” Mr Noonan said in a statement.


The Guardian, 13 September 2017:

The government confirmed on Wednesday night that legal assistance would be provided to Nigel Hadgkiss in accordance with normal practice.
While the legal costs will be covered, a spokesman for the employment minister Michaelia Cash said Hadgkiss had “neither sought nor received any indemnification against any penalty that may be ordered by the court”.
It is possible he could apply for indemnification once the court proceedings move forward.

Tuesday, 11 July 2017

Can't live on the wage you bring home but can't get a raise from the boss? Here's the reasons why

In 2016 an est. 3.89 million people living in New South Wales had a personal weekly income of between $0 and $644 per week, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics.

In Tasmania an est. 1.03 million people had way less than $573 per week.

Between March Quarter 2016 and March Quarter 2017 wages growth remained at record lows.

So this should come as no surprise……

Industrial relations lawyer Josh Bornstein writing in The Sydney Morning Herald, 5 July 2017:

When Reserve Bank governor Philip Lowe recently declared a "wages crisis" following a prolonged period of low wages growth, it appears to have caught the federal government on the hop. Quick to respond to crises about border protection, terrorism and rising energy prices, this is one crisis that renders the government mute. There is no plan, no working group, or commissioning of a white paper from the Productivity Commission. Instead, the government has announced a plan to pay up to 10,000 "interns" to work in the retail industry for as little as $4 an hour. This plan will only exacerbate the wages crisis.

Phillip Lowe is not the first prominent mandarin to observe that stagnant wages threaten economic growth. A new consensus has emerged since the Global Financial Crisis that anaemic wages growth and increased income inequality is retarding economies and stoking political volatility in developed economies. Nevertheless, Lowe is the first in Australia to join the chorus. His suggested remedy – that employees need to speak up more to request higher pay – is strikingly naive, inviting the obvious question. What if the boss says "no"?

Lowe's counterpart at the Bank of England, Andy Haldane, has offered a more sophisticated analysis of the wages crisis, focused on the transformation of the labour market. Haldane recently observed that profound changes in workplaces had produced a period of "divide and conquer" that left workers less able to bargain for higher wages. "There is power in numbers. A workforce that is more easily divided than in the past may find itself more easily conquered. In other words, a world of divisible work may reduce workers' wage-bargaining power," he said.

The collapse in bargaining power for workers that Haldane has observed is reflected in the plight of Australian trade unions, which are languishing at their weakest point in their history. Only 14.5 per cent of employees belong to a trade union. In the private sector, that number sits at a shocking 10 per cent and falling. The tipping point passed long ago. Australian trade unions are fighting for their survival. That wage growth and employee share of GDP has hit record lows is no coincidence…..

The explanation for the severity of the collapse of unionisation is far more prosaic. It's our laws. Unions have been seriously weakened by 30 years of constant political and legislative attacks. The last conservative prime minister not to establish a royal commission into trade unions was Billy McMahon (1971-1972). For decades, business lobby groups have permanently and successfully campaigned for legislative change that weakens unions.

In this era, workplace laws have been changed in two key ways. First, the laws have been deregulated to encourage employers to cut wages and de-unionise their workplaces. At the same time, unions have been subjected to complex regulation that restricts their ability to access workplaces, recruit members and to bargain for better wages and conditions. The laws have allowed employers unprecedented ability to cut labour costs, outmanoeuvre employees and their unions while at the same time inveigling unions into a kind of regulatory quicksand…..

Read the full article here.

Thursday, 20 April 2017

On the Australian Waterfront Everything Old Is New Again In 2017

Chris Corrigan has returned to his old stomping ground.

Swap April 2017 for April 1998, Malcolm Turnbull for John Howard, Sally McManus for Greg Combet and Paddy Crumlin for John Coombs and what have you got?

Perhaps the start of a replay of the Patrick Corporation Pty Ltd versus Maritime Union of Australia waterfront dispute, in which then Patrick managing director Chris Corrigan and his Liberal-Nationals political allies attempted to kill off the union representing dock and maritime workers at ports around Australia.  

The Sydney Morning Herald, November 2016:

Legendary waterfront warrior Chris Corrigan has announced he will stand down as chairman of logistics giant Qube, just months after the company completed the takeover of Asciano's Patrick's container ports business.

Coal industry veteran and long-time Qube director Allan Davies will be appointed chairman after a transitional program that is expected to be completed by around June 2017.

"I could not be more proud of the achievements of the Qube management team and it has been an enormous privilege to be part of the progress of this business," Mr Corrigan told Qube's annual general meeting in Sydney on Thursday.

Mr Corrigan, who has chaired Qube since early 2011 and is a former managing director of Patrick's, said he will continue as a director of the ports group "for a more extended period" to help oversee its integration following the acquisition from Asciano.

ACTU letter to Patrick Stevedores, 11 April 2017:


1. The Maritime Workers Union of Australia (the Union) and employees of companies in the Patricks group of companies (Patricks) who are members of the Union have brought proceedings in the Federal Court alleging that Patricks and others have acted unlawfully by taking steps to replace the employees with non-Union workers.
2. An urgent situation arose on 6 April 1998, when the Union and the employees believed that Patricks were about to dismiss the entire workforce over Easter.
3. The Union and the employees applied to the Court immediately on 6 April 1998 and asked for temporary orders to keep the employees in work until the main application is heard by the Court. The Court listed that urgent matter for hearing on 8 April 1998.
4. The following night, on 7 April 1998, the Patrick companies which employed the employees (the Patrick employers) appointed administrators to companies on the ground that they were insolvent.
5. Part of the cause of the insolvency was that other Patrick companies which owned the stevedoring operation (the Patrick owners) cancelled a contract for the supply of labour by the Patrick employers to the Patrick owners. That contract was the way the Patrick employers obtained stevedoring work to employ the employees.
6. On the same night, the Patrick owners engaged contractors to provide a new workforce. Under these contracts, the Patrick owners committed themselves to substantial financial obligations……
12. The cancellation of the labour supply contract and the appointment of administrators on 7 April 1998 were made possible by a complex inter-company transaction which occurred in September 1997. By dividing the functions of employing workers and owning the business between two companies, the Patrick group put in place a structure which made it easier to dismiss the whole workforce. It is arguable, on the evidence, that this was done because the employees were members of the Union. So there is an arguable case that the Patrick employers acted in breach of s 298K(1) of the Act.
13. There is also an arguable case that these acts amounted to a breach of the employees' contracts of employment.
14. There is also evidence that the Patrick owners and other companies in the Patrick group, together with others, agreed on these unlawful acts as part of an overall plan to replace the workforce with non-Union labour. This means that there is an arguable case that the Patrick owners and Patrick employers have engaged in an unlawful conspiracy.

Patricks conducted the business of stevedoring at 17 facilities around Australia. In particular, four companies in the Patricks group ("the employers”) employed the applicant employees, approximately 1,400 in number, and who were members of the MUA, to carry on the stevedoring business. The employees believed that the employers intended to dismiss their unionised workforce and replace it with non-union labour. This concern was fueled by the fact that, in January 1998, the Patricks group transferred the right to use No 5 Webb Dock in Victoria for stevedoring operations, together with cranes and equipment, to companies associated with the National Farmers Federation (NFF). The MUA employees believed that Patricks had some involvement with the NFF companies, and that the transfer of No 5 Webb Dock was part of a plan by Patricks to train an alternative workforce with which to replace the union employees.
In response, the employees filed an application on 11 February 1998, in which they alleged that the transfer of No 5 Webb Dock was part of a wrongful plan to replace the MUA employees with a non-union workforce. However, matters escalated considerably just before Easter when the employees learned that Patricks intended to dismiss the whole workforce during the Easter period. Then, on 7 April 1998, Patricks announced that it had entered into contracts "for a range of services from nine separate companies including the ... NFF backed P&C Stevedoring ..." and that Patricks had "taken steps to ensure all displaced employees ... will be eligible to receive their full leave and redundancy entitlements.
"On the evening of the 7'h of April, each of the four Patrick employer companies appointed administrators under Pt 5.3A of the Corporations Law. The court was told on 8 April that the administrators intended to dismiss the employees because the employers were insolvent. An interim injunction to restrain the employers from doing so was granted by His Honour North J on 8 April 1998, to have effect until the first hearing day after Easter, that was 15 April 1998. It is this latter hearing, and the subsequent appeals from the decision, which is the subject of this case note.
The employees sought injunctive orders which, in general terms, sought to prevent the employers, until the trial of the action, from dismissing the employees, and which required Patricks to utilise the MUA employees and no others in operating its stevedoring business. The court was also asked to restrain the employers from acting on or giving effect to the purported termination of certain labour supply agreements between the employers and another company in the Croup, Patrick Stevedores ESD Pty Ltd. That purported termination, which occurred on the evening of 7 April 1998, armed the Patricks employers with the power to claim that the MUA workforce was redundant.'' In other words, the purported termination left the employers with no work for their workforces to perform."…..
The injunctive orders granted by North J and upheld on appeal essentially had the effect of requiring Patricks as employers to retain their workforce, and compelled Patrick Stevedores Operations Pty Ltd to use that workforce for any stevedoring work. The orders amounted to the specific performance of the labour supply agreements, and required that the pre-7 April situation, whereby the Patrick operators had employed as their labour force members of the MUA, be maintained. The employees were protected against the imminent termination of their employment….
…the High Court was prepared to uphold the orders made by North J, in light of the undertakings given, on the basis that the administrators had to retain their discretion as to whether the employer companies ought to continue trading, or cease trading, and whether or not it would be feasible to retain the whole workforce. Decisions of that kind were for the administrators to make, not the court. However, if the administrators decided to continue trading, the effect was to restore the pre-7 April employment situation.

The sacked unionised Patricks workforce was finally reinstated in May 1998.

As Chairman and major shareholder in Qube Holdings Ltd Corrigan oversaw the purchase of Patricks in 2016.

Friday, 7 April 2017

News Corp has egg on its face

So the newspaper has no excuse for such inaccurate reporting prominently displayed as an “Exclusive” on its 29 March 2017 front page.

The Guardian, 30 March 2017:

The Australian newspaper has claimed that the union leader Sally McManus faked her CV when she said she was president of a university union for two years.

The story, headlined “Mystery of union chief’s uni claim”, said the ACTU secretary was “not elected to the student union council in any elections in 1991, 1992, 1993 or 1994”.

But her Macquarie University deputy student leader at the time and McManus herself have demolished the story, saying it was lacking in research and was the result of a mix-up between the student union and the student council.

Mark Greenhill, now the mayor of Blue Mountains council, said McManus was president of the Macquarie University student union. “I should know, I was her vice-president,” Greenhill said.
“Anyone aware of politics on Australian campuses in the 1990s would be aware, there was a separation between representative service and political bodies.

“A separate body, the Macquarie University student council, was the political body.”

The Australian’s associate editor, Brad Norington, who has written a series of articles critical of McManus, implied in an “exclusive” story that McManus had faked her experience on her professional profile on LinkedIn.

“The claim by ACTU secretary Sally McManus that she headed the student union at Macquarie University for more than two years is in dispute, with no records showing she ever held the post,” he wrote on the front page of the Australian.

“On her LinkedIn ‘experience’ profile, Ms McManus says she was president of the student union at North Ryde, in Sydney’s northwest, from August 1991 to August 1993, for ‘2yrs 1 mo’.”

The story was promoted by the Australian’s associate editor, Caroline Overington, on Twitter before an address by McManus at the National Press Club…..

The Australian addressed the error by publishing a second story on Wednesday afternoon with the headline “Sally McManus clarifies Macquarie Uni student union past”. The original story is still online.

Thursday, 23 March 2017

Before anyone starts yelling about those big bad unions, take a look at these workplace fatality statistics

The following figures represent someone’s mother or father, son or daughter, brother or sister, niece or nephew, aunt or uncle, grandparent or friend.

The numbers also make clear that, averaged out, three people were killed each week in a workplace accident between 1 January and 14 March 2017.

This is no blip in workplace fatality statistics – averaged out four workers died each week of the year in 2015 and three workers each week in 2016.

Worker fatalities

As at 14 March, 32 Australian workers have been killed at work in 2017.

The number of worker deaths listed on this page is based on initial media reports and is a preliminary estimate of the number of people killed while working. Once the appropriate authority has investigated the death, more accurate information becomes available from which Safe Work Australia updates details of the incident.
Updated information is used to publish Safe Work Australia’s annual Work-related Traumatic Injury Fatalities report which includes finalised work-related fatalities from 2003 onwards.

Year-to-date 2017: Preliminary worker deaths by industry of workplacea
a Ranked in descending order, and then on alphabetical order for industries with no fatalities.
b Mining fatalities include fatalities that occur in the coal mining, oil and gas extraction, metal ore mining, gravel and sand quarrying, and services to mining sectors.
c Includes notifiable fatalities that occurred overseas.
Safe Work Australia also collects and reports on a range of other work health and safety and workers compensation statistics.

These figures are still too high. 

However if it wasn’t for the efforts of unions from the 1830s onwards to have wages, hours worked, sick leave, annual leave and workplace safety included in Australian industrial law, workplace fatalities would be much higher in this country today.