Union disputes

Union disputes
Unions have a right to represent workers in many situations, but does your business know where it stands? When disputes escalate to the union, it is important your business knows how to handle matters with diplomacy and professionalism.

A union can raise disputes on behalf of individual employees or large groups of employees. Employees may request union representation, for example, at a disciplinary meeting. However, unions are also able to initiate and pursue disputes in their own right and can escalate unresolved matters to the FWC for resolution. Unions are frequently involved in workplace matters including:

  • Non-compliance with policies and procedures
  • Workplace safety
  • Mishandling workplace disagreements
  • Disputes around wages and entitlements
  • Disputes around the application and interpretation of enterprise agreements
  • Poor workplace culture including bullying, harassment and discrimination
  • Change processes such as restructures and redundancies

Right of Entry permits

When disputes arise, unions may choose to visit the place of business for their own investigations. Under the current legislation, unions can apply for a Right of Entry permit (ROE) which allows them access to a workplace during that worksite’s working hours to:

  • Investigate suspected contraventions of the Fair Work Act and other instruments (such as a collective agreement or award)
  • Hold discussions with employees who are entitled to be represented by the union
  • Exercise rights under occupational health and safety (OHS) laws.

ROE permit holders are subject to strict rules regarding notice of their entry, the circumstances of the entry, the location of meetings and adherence to workplace OHS directives. When your business has questions about managing union access within the law, our workplace relations experts can provide the advice about the best course of action to take.

Union involvement in disciplinary matters

What is an advocate? What is a support person? What is the difference?

If you don’t know who can be in the room during disciplinary meetings, and in what capacity, it could be extremely costly to your business.

Contact us

When your business has questions about managing union access within the law, our workplace relations experts can provide the advice about the best course of action to take. Your first port of call is the Workplace Relations Advice Line on 03 8662 5222, and matters can go through to our consultants for more specialised advice.

Members can access our comprehensive library of free online fact sheets and document templates and adapt them to their unique operational needs.