FWC terminates proposed protected industrial action

FWC terminates proposed protected industrial action

FWC terminates proposed protected industrial action

A rail corporation has succeeded in convincing the Fair Work Commission that proposed protected industrial action should be terminated on the basis that proposed stoppages of work for an indefinite period threatens to endanger the welfare of the population of New South Wales.

The Australian Rail Track Corporation Limited (ARTC) is an Australian Government-owned corporation and current operator of the Australian freight rail network. ARTC employs around 2,200 workers who help manage the transit of approximately 440 passenger trains and freight trains across its network daily.

ARTC has been negotiating the renewal of their current enterprise agreement, which nominally expired on 11 June 2023, with three unions – the Australian Rail, Tram and Bus Industry Union (RBTU), the Australian Municipal, Administrative, Clerical and Services Union (ASU), and the Communications, Electrical, Electronic, Energy, Information, Postal, Plumbing and Allied Services Union of Australia (CEPU).

Although most of the terms for a proposed agreement had been agreed upon between the parties, agreement had not been reached on the scope of the agreement, wage rises and sick leave conditions.

ARTC applied to the FWC in response to the receipt of notices from each union on 30 June 2023 of protected industrial action pursuant to s 414 of the Fair Work Act 2009. The actions identified in the notice included an unlimited number of consecutive stoppages and an indefinite ban on operators being On-Call.

In uncontested evidence presented to Commissioner Stephen Crawford, ARTC intended the consequences of the proposed industrial action included disruption to the coal supply chain in the Hunter Valley, disruption to passenger services and freight services, and outages of electricity utilised for essential needs such as cooking and lighting.

In his determination, Commissioner Crawford noted,

“I am comfortably satisfied based on Mr Johnson’s uncontested evidence that the protected industrial action notified by the RBTU, namely the unlimited number of consecutive 72-hour stoppages of work for an indefinite period, threatens to endanger the population of NSW”.

With that decision, Commissioner Crawford did not feel the need to further determine whether the proposed action would cause significant damage to the Australian economy.

Commissioner Crawford issued an Order terminating protected industrial action in relation to the Proposed Agreement, effective from 4 July 2023.

Australian Rail Track Corporation Limited T/A Australian Rail Track Corporation v Australian Rail, Tram and Bus Industry Union, Australian Municipal, Administrative, Clerical and Services Union [2023] FWC 1636 (5 July 2023)

For queries about negotiating enterprise agreements, protected industrial action, or other employment questions, please contact Dean Cameron at Workforce Advisory Lawyers – We Know Employment Law on 1300 925 529, 0417 622 178 or via email to dean.cameron@workforceadvisory.com.au

Disclaimer: This information is provided as general advice on workplace relations and employment law. It does not constitute legal advice, and it is always advisable to seek further information regarding specific workplace issues. Liability limited by a scheme approved under professional standards legislation.

Ref: 359.0723

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