Big wins for Maurice Blackburn’s union clients

1 May 2019
The past few months have seen Maurice Blackburn’s industrial team secure big wins for a number of our union clients.

Bargaining order made against Chemist Warehouse

The huge victory of our client the National Union of Workers in securing improved pay and conditions for warehouse workers at Chemist Warehouse has been national news.

Through hard grassroots campaigning and strong member action, Chemist Warehouse has agreed to a new enterprise agreement with workers that greatly increases job security and pay.

Just days before Chemist Warehouse backed down, our team secured a bargaining order on behalf of the NUW which meant that Chemist Warehouse had to call off a ballot on a non-union agreement and were prevented from doing so again for another 21 days.

The orders also brought Chemist Warehouse back to the bargaining table for a minimum of three meetings to discuss conditions.

Greenfields agreement rejected

Our team secured a win in February for our client the Australian Workers’ Union, alongside four other unions, on the West Gate Tunnel Project.

The WGT Project is a major infrastructure project being undertaken in partnership between the Victorian Government and Transurban, CPB Contractors Pty Ltd and John Holland Pty Ltd (collectively known as the Joint Venture Partners), who were the successful tenderer for the design and construct phase of the WGT Project.

At the end of a 6-month notified negotiation period, the Joint Venture Partners applied to the Fair Work Commission to have two enterprise agreements approved that would have covered workers on the WGT Project.  The applications were made unilaterally and against the wishes of the unions who would cover the WGT Project employees. If approved the enterprise agreements would have allowed the Joint Venture Partners to employ workers on lower wages and conditions than those paid to workers who are currently working on the project.

The unions, including our client the AWU, objected to the approval of the enterprise agreements on the basis that;

  1. The enterprise agreements did not meet prevailing pay and conditions in the industry,
  2. The agreements did not relate to a genuine new enterprise because of the amount of work that had already been undertaken, and
  3. The Joint Venture had already employed persons on the WGT Project and so could not have a Greenfields agreement approved.

The Fair Work Commission found that, due to the amount of work already performed on the WGT Project, it was not a genuinely new enterprise and therefore the enterprise agreements could not be approved.

Decision: Applications by CPB Contractors Pty Limited & John Holland Pty Ltd [2019] FWC 1122

Flexible working arrangements

In another win in February, our team secured a win on an appeal to the Full Bench of the Fair Work Commission in a dispute about a flexible work arrangement request by a Victoria Police Officer under the enterprise agreement, which effectively incorporated s. 65 (Request for Flexible Working Arrangements) of the Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth).

The dispute followed a request by a Detective Senior Constable for a flexible working arrangement which would allow him to work 10 hour shifts over 4 days per week rather than working 8 hour shifts over 5 days per week. This request was denied with his employer relying on “reasonable business grounds”.

The Full Bench observed that s.65 of the Act confers the benefit of changed work arrangements on eligible employees, and s.65(5A) indicates a high degree of adverse impact is required to be shown to justify a refusal.

At first instance, the Commissioner had held in favour of the Detective Senior Constable on the question of whether his proposed working arrangement would mean that he was unable to perform the inherent requirements of the job, because of the impact on his capacity to perform overtime and issues of fatigue.

The Full Bench upheld the decision at first instance in a win for the Detective Senior Constable and for workers looking to work flexibly.

Decision: Victoria Police v The Police Federation of Australia (Victoria Police Branch) T/A The Police Association of Victoria [2019] FWCFB 305

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