Union raids to rise


TWU to target non-unionised businesses, as law firm warns of increase in union raids from July

Union raids to rise
Union raids to rise
By Brad Gardner

Businesses are being told to prepare for a massive increase in union raids from July this year when new industrial relations laws take effect.

In a warning to businesses, Cooper Grace Ward Lawyers’ Heinz Lepahe says "unions are starting to ramp up now a campaign of workplace visitations" in anticipation of the Fair Work Bill’s introduction.

Lepahe says the Bill’s provisions will result in greater union presence because union delegates will be able to access non-union employees and demand company records on the basis of a suspected breach.

Hughie Williams from the Queensland branch of the Transport Workers’ Union (TWU) says he will be paying close attention to non-unionised businesses, claiming they often pay poor rates and have a poor approach to health and safety.

"The TWU will be visiting non-unionised yards and meeting with employees to discuss their workplace conditions and safety concerns," Williams says.

"Over the years the TWU has found that non-unionised yards endure terrible working conditions."

But Lepahe has criticised the provision allowing union access to non-unionised staff, saying it has little to do with ensuring workplace safety and "more about unions having access to recruit".

Lepahe says unions will claim there is a suspected breach merely to gain access to yards and hold on-site meetings.

"Now they can use their suspicion as a recruiting tool and there is very little you can do to keep that from happening," Lepahe says.

He predicts unions will also work together to exploit any cross-recruitment opportunities by "spotting" for other groups. As such, businesses with a multi-faceted workforce have the potential to be inundated with union visits.

"We do expect camps from groups of unions to help recruitment site to site," Lepahe says.

But while saying the new industrial relations laws have the potential to spark "a fair bit of aggravation on some sites", Lepahe says businesses can avert conflict.

He says managers need to ensure union delegates do not freely roam around a work site.

"My advice is never let them out of your sight," Lepahe says.

Williams has rejected the Lepahe’s assertions, saying unions are solely focussed on employee safety. He says it is important unions have access to all employees to improve their working conditions.

Williams says businesses should not feel threatened by unions "if their records are up to date, accurate and they have nothing to hide".

The Rudd Government introduced the Fair Work Bill to supersede the previous government’s WorkChoices regime, which curtailed union access to workplaces.

The Bill also reinstates unfair dismissal laws. The Government attempted to slot in the provision to introduce the controversial Bluecard scheme nationally, but the move was defeated in the Senate.

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