TWU fined $35k for unlawful industrial action

TWU slapped with $35,000 fine for unlawful industrial action against Qantas

July 26, 2010

The Transport Workers Union has been slapped with a $35,000 fine for unlawful industrial action against Qantas.

The Federal Court ruled that the union committed two breaches of workplace laws by organising Qantas baggage handlers in Adelaide and Melbourne to strike in December 2007.

The case was the first time the Fair Work Ombudsman had taken action against a union for unlawful industrial action.

It alleged the union’s actions were unlawful because the strike was committed before the Qantas baggage handlers’ enterprise bargaining agreement expired in 2008.

"The Adelaide strike resulted from encouragement by a high-ranking official of (the TWU). In those circumstances, a substantial penalty is called for," Justice Anthony Besanko says.

He found that 15 domestic Qantas flights from Adelaide were delayed by more than three hours due to the TWU’s actions, while flights from Melbourne to Adelaide suffered delays of more than five hours.

The TWU attempted to prevent a review by Qantas into baggage handling operations, fearing it would lead to job and wage losses because work would be outsourced.

While two breaches of the law can attract a maximum penalty of $66,000, the Fair Work Ombudsman and the TWU agreed a $35,000 fine was appropriate.

"The (TWU) has taken corrective action, expressed contrition and co-operated with the authorities from an early stage. On the other hand, the contraventions were serious and deliberate," Besanko says.

The TWU must pay the $35,000 fine by August 23.

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