Radical delegates’ rights in “Closing Loopholes” Bill an early Christmas present for unions

“The provisions of the ‘Closing Loopholes’ Bill affording broad new rights to union delegates are unreasonable and unnecessary. They are a recipe for workplace chaos and disputation,” Innes Willox, Chief Executive of the national employer association Ai Group said today.

“There is no need to impose a raft of new obligations on employers in relation to union delegates. Alarmingly, the Bill could afford an unlimited number of union delegates with various new paid training and access rights.

“The changes to delegates’ rights are unnecessary given the raft of protections already afforded to employee representatives under our system. They reflect an impractical, unjustified and unbalanced change in the regulation of such matters. The Bill will give union delegates and officials wide-ranging powers to represent other employees, regardless of whether those workers even want to join a union. This has huge implications, from a practical perspective, for how businesses engage with their workforces.

“The shortcomings of the new provisions for union delegates are profound and compounded by the disturbing lack of clarity as to how the Bill will operate given it:

  • does not limit the number of workplace delegates who are eligible to attend training courses in a year;
  • does not clearly limit the number of days that a delegate can be absent from a workplace in a year for the purposes of related training;
  • does not clarify what rate of pay should attach to the entitlement;
  • does not require the employee to give a reasonable period of notice to the employer of the intent to take the leave;
  • does not require that the employer be provided with proof of attendance at the training, the duration of the training or what was covered by the training;
  • does not require that any attendance at the training at a particular time has to be reasonable having regard to matters such as the operational requirements of the employer (so as minimise adverse effects on the employer); and
  • is not confined to training about dispute resolution at the workplace but could instead encompass a broad range of subject matters that a union deemed appropriate.

“The Fair Work Act, when it was implemented by a Labor Government, afforded unions an extensive range of new rights and powers and there is no serious need to rebalance the regulation further. This Bill seeks to disturb the balance that was previously struck in relation to such matters by further extending union rights without any meaningful justification. Christmas has come early for the unions this year,” Mr Willox said.

/Public Release. View in full here.