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Court punishes AWU for ‘unlawful’ action against members

Court

The Federal Court had penalised the Australian Workers’ Union (AWU) for taking adverse action against two of its members who refused to participate in industrial action.

The Fair Work Ombudsman has secured an $18,000 penalty in the Federal Court against AWU after two employees of Melbourne-based manufacturing plant Orica Australia were charged for refusing to participate in industrial action.

On 3 March 2015, employees at Orica took protected industrial action, arranged by the AWU and negotiated with Orica Australia, in relation to a new enterprise agreement covering Deer Park workers.

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The court found that an AWU officer took steps to charge the two members under the AWU’s rules for engaging in “gross misbehaviour” and failing to comply with a “resolution or direction lawfully passed or given”.

The AWU withdrew the charges against the two workers on 2 September 2015 after the FWO’s investigation had commenced.

However, the court found that the AWU contravened the Fair Work Act by taking adverse action against members because they exercised a workplace right and did not engage in industrial activity.

Fair Work Ombudsman Sandra Parker said that enforcing compliance with workplace laws is fundamental to maintaining the integrity of Australia’s system.

“All workers, including union members, have the lawful right to choose whether they will or will not participate in protected industrial action,” Ms Parker said.

“It is unlawful for unions and employers to take adverse action against any worker for exercising that right, and we are prepared to take enforcement action to protect these integral workplace rights.”

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Court punishes AWU for ‘unlawful’ action against members
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