In an important decision which suggests the tide is turning against the CFMEU’s ability to hold itself above the law, Fair Work Commission (FWC) Vice President Graeme Watson has imposed restrictions on all right of entry permits held by CFMEU officials in Victoria (and Queensland). In addition, Vice President Watson suspended a number of CFMEU officials’ right of entry permits, including Victorian officials Steve Long and Rob Graauwmans for 12 and six months respectively.
The order, which takes effect from 14 March 2016, is largely framed around compliance with existing legal obligations. It does however impose a number of additional requirements in relation to entry onto Victorian building or construction sites which remain in effect for 12 months from the date of the order:
- CFMEU permit holders seeking to enter for industrial purposes under the Fair Work Act (i.e. to hold discussions with eligible employees or investigate a suspected breach of an EBA, etc) must notify the Director of the Fair Work Building Industry Inspectorate (FWBC) in writing at the same time they notify the occupier of the relevant site.
- CFMEU permit holders seeking to enter for the purpose of inquiring into a suspected contravention of the Victorian OHS Act 2004, will need to provide the occupier with 24 hours written notice – except where the permit holder has a reasonable concern that the suspected contravention poses a serious and immediate risk.
- CFMEU permit holders shall only enter site after – wearing all required personal protective equipment, presenting at the site office and waiting for an escort to arrive, identifying themself (including providing full name), and signing their name in the visitor’s book.
- CFMEU permit holders shall not enter a site with a CFMEU official or employee who does not hold an entry permit
- Where any of the above conditions are not met, the CFMEU permit holder shall immediately leave site upon the request of an agent of the occupier.
- CFMEU permit holders shall carry (and provide for inspection on request of the occupier) their entry permit and a copy of the entry notice; comply with the lawful instructions given by a representative of the occupier; and ensure that any discussions with employees (under s.484 of the FW Act) are hold during designated breaks.
These requirements provide a clear and unambiguous path for head contractors to effectively manage union entry on their sites. It is also likely to result in union right of entry continuing to be a key area of focus for FWBC going forward – in its capacity as both workplace relations regulator and code compliance auditor.
Master Builders has updated its Right of Entry permit holder list to reflect the above decision, effective from 14 March. Members seeking further information on right of entry requirements are also encouraged to contact the IR Department on (03) 9411 4560.