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Workplace Bill proposes changes to union access

EMA is encouraging business to look at proposed changes in the Employment Relations Amendment Bill relating to union access to workplaces.

Under proposed changes, the primary duty of a union delegate to obtain agreement to enter a worksite has become blurred. The Bill does not prescribe due process in terms of seeking agreement from an employer and leaves open the possibility of a delegate being able to come onto a site without prior arrangements being put in place.

"Industrial relations have come a long way and as a result many businesses have established a good working relationship with unions. From an employer’s perspective the current situation works well as they can agree to a time and place for a union delegate to conduct a meeting which is suitable from an operational perspective.

"The proposed changes could result in a union delegate coming on-site unannounced, and this has the potential to be extremely disruptive and costly.

It may also breach a site’s health and safety provisions around how visitors access workplaces.

"At present, the only people allowed unannounced access to a workplace in the course of their work are the police, labour inspectors and health and safety inspectors," says Kim Campbell, CEO, EMA.

There are several other clauses in the Bill which relate to collective bargaining and union rights, which the EMA will submit on.

"The key consideration around these proposed changes is that we must not lose sight of the end game. We all want a high wage, high performing economy which enables businesses to grow and contribute to economic growth.

"The demands of a modern economy require flexibility and agility to meet the demands of customers and consumers. Our employment relations framework is a vital part of the equation and we have to ensure the settings meet the needs of all parties," says Mr Campbell.

Submissions of the Employment Relations Amendment Bill close on March 30.

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