Union visits and the associated tension between employers and
union officials can be disruptive and stressful for both parties.
The Fair Work Commission has provided recommendations to clarify
rights of entry visits which will be trialled for a period of three
month. This article highlights the recommendations in more detail
and demonstrates what employers can do to manage right of entry in
Employee's time and level of commitment are critical
resources to any business in pursuit of productivity and business
efficiency. With this in mind it comes as no surprise that the
entry of union officials into the workplace can be perceived by
employers as disruptive and an unreasonable diversion of their
In order to combat the tension between employers and union
officials exercising their right of entry, the Fair Work Commission
was given the power, from 1 January this year, under the Fair Work
Act to determine disputes and make orders when satisfied that the
frequency of entry would "require an unreasonable diversion of
the occupier's critical resources".
The Fair Work Commission last week was asked by Greenmountian
Food Processing to clarify the frequency, location and duration of
right of entry visits conducted by AMIEU (ie. meatworkers'
union). The parties acknowledged that they had failed to reach an
Frequency of visits by permit holders;
Duration of visits;
Location of discussions with employees;
Movements of permit holders during visits; and
Participation of employees in discussions.
Having heard from both parties, Commissioner Lewin, provided
recommendations to be trialled for a period of three month with the
parties reporting back to the Commission after two. The
recommendations integrated aspects from the alternative positions
of both parties.
In regard to the frequency of visits the Commissioner
visits to hold discussions with employees are to be conducted
in the event of Enterprise Bargaining the parties may meet and
confer to agree on supplementary visits in order to facilitate the
bargaining process; and
employees may request additional visits.
The duration of visits were limited to two time slots:
Between 7.50am and 8.10am; and
Between 11.50am and 1.10pm.
The locations of the visits and movements of the permit holders
were restricted to:
The lunch room subject to AMIEU providing a protocol explaining
the purpose of their visit as well as an undertaking that they
would only hold discussion with employees who wished to
The movements of the permit holders would be restricted to the
lunch room for the whole visit.
The recommendations of the Fair Work Commission fail to provide
any clarification on what is meant by "unreasonable
diversion" of an employer's critical resources but it
does, however, demonstrate the types of acceptable restrictions
that an employer can seek to implement in order to manage right of
entry in the workplace. Further, it gives an indication that there
are limitations upon unions wandering around your premises as they
Long experience representing many of Australia's leading employers has taught us that in employment litigation the identity of an employee's representative is a major factor in how employee litigation runs.
Australian employees receive certain entitlements (such as annual leave and superannuation) where contractors do not.
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