Industrial Action Must Be A Last Resort
23 December 2010
Australia's peak business organisation, the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry says it has real concerns about the intended effect of the Fair Work laws following today’s Full Bench of Fair Work Australia (FWA) decision in the JJ Richards matter, particularly the views expressed about ready access to industrial action.
ACCI's Director of Workplace Policy David Gregory said,"in any framework of bargaining and negotiation, industrial action must be a last resort option as it is inevitably disruptive and costly to all involved, and to be avoided as far as possible."
"In the FWA decision, the Majority appears to be of the view that the Act intends that where a union has muscle in a particular workplace and a preparedness to take industrial action to advance wages and conditions it should be free and readily able to pursue that option. This sends all the wrong signals about what our workplace laws intend, and what sort of behaviour is appropriate in Australian workplaces. It is a view that is at odds with the object in section 3(f) of the Fair Work Act of “achieving productivity and fairness through an emphasis on enterprise level collective bargaining underpinned by simple good faith bargaining obligations and clear rules governing industrial action," David Gregory said.
The Fair Work Act contains new and expansive provisions designed to bring a reluctant employer to the bargaining table. Further detailed provisions are designed and intended to enable and facilitate bargaining and agreement making.
"The Tribunal is also empowered to make binding determinations upon parties if those processes are ignored or not complied with. We should not giving a green light to parties that it is OK to bypass these important new mechanisms," David Gregory said.
"ACCI believes the Parliament clearly intended that industrial action is to be the last resort response in processes of bargaining and negotiation, rather than the first port of call, particularly in circumstances where an employer has not even been provided with detail about the union’s demands. It did not intend that “strike first, talk later” be the way in which bargaining and negotiation occur," David Gregory said.
"ACCI will continue to monitor these and other outcomes from the Fair Work laws and do what it believes necessary to ensure that Australia has in place a balanced framework of workplace laws in which industrial action is, as it should be, a last resort option."