Members may recall our previous advice warning members that the CFMEU’s tactic of providing notice of representational rights to employers who currently hold Industry EBA 2011-2015 was part of a strategy to mislead employers into initiating a process that could lead to protected industrial action. Members were advised not to provide copies of notice of representational rights to employees unless or until a decision is made to formally commence bargaining.
Master Builders is aware that the CFMEU has recently commenced the next stage of its campaign to lay the groundwork for protected industrial action by seeking to open EBA discussions directly with individual employers, rather than through Master Builders at an industry level. Whilst there is nothing wrong with employers listening to what the CFMEU has to say, care should be taken to ensure that one is not seen to have agreed to commence negotiations and be in the process of genuinely trying to reach agreement.
Recent changes to the Fair Work Act 2009 which came into effect on 27 November 2015 ensure that applications for protected industrial action ballot orders can only be made after bargaining has commenced. Bargaining commences when the employer agrees to or initiates bargaining; or, a union obtains a majority support determination from the Fair Work Commission proving that the majority of employees want to bargain with their employer. Once bargaining has commenced employers are required to provide employees with a notice of representational rights. The changes prevent employees (and the Union) from taking protected industrial action to pressure employers prior to bargaining commencing.
Members should be aware that the likely time period envisioned for the commencement of a protected industrial campaign by the CFMEU is early in 2016 – most likely to coincide with the time workers will be expecting wage increases.
Master Builders understands that one of the key reasons behind the CFMEU’s strategy of having protected industrial action available as a viable option is to make code compliance a key battleground – i.e. the CFMEU’s intention appears to be to refuse to agree to an agreement that is compliant with the proposed Building Code 2014 (regardless of whether or not it is legislated) and use any resultant industrial campaign in an attempt to lobby the federal Government to abolish, or weaken, the code.
Members who currently perform federally funded work, or intend to be in a position to tender for federally funded work in future – should therefore be particularly mindful of taking any steps that could lead to protected industrial action being taken against them.
Members contacted by the CFMEU are encouraged to direct the CFMEU to engage directly with Master Builders in industry level discussions.
Members receiving EBA-related correspondence from the CFMEU are also strongly encouraged to contact the IR Department on 9411 4560 for further information.