Court ruling gave workers victory
Release date: 11/05/2012
A ruling last month by the Federal Court in Melbourne secured a significant victory for members of the Transport Workers' Union (TWU) employed by waste company JJ Richards.
The TWU had been embroiled in a long-running dispute with JJ Richards and the decision on April 20 by the Full Bench of the Federal Court was a win not only for the workers at JJ Richards, but for all workers and employers throughout the country.
The right to take protected industrial action when you are attempting to negotiate in good faith is a right that is now protected in law.
Up to 20 waste workers at Canterbury City Council had their wages and conditions drastically cut when the tender changed from a previous employer with a union collective agreement, to JJ Richards which employed them on the minimum award rates.
The workers tried to negotiate an agreement with JJ Richards for around 18 months but the company continually refused to even meet with them. The workers then applied to Fair Work Australia to take protected industrial action in order to force JJ Richards to the table.
The Federal Court's decision confirmed that where employees have attempted to negotiate with a company in good faith, they can take protected industrial action.
It reinforces a fundamental right that should be afforded to any worker seeking to collectively bargain. The decisions of Fair Work Australia placed the responsibility to negotiate squarely on both parties.
JJ Richards' appeal to the Federal Court must be seen for what it was a blatant attempt to undermine the collective bargaining system.
This was the fifth time that a tribunal or court had found in favour of the TWU on this point of law, but the company continually refused to accept the umpire's decision. We note with interest the support for JJ Richards from the Australian Mines and Metals Association an organisation with no connection to the waste industry.
The Australian Mines and Metals Association relentlessly and pointlessly pursued its ideological agenda. JJ Richards has since lost the tender at Canterbury Council and thus the decision has no practical effect on either party.
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