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New draft Bill under scrutiny for legality

THE WA Government’s new draft Industrial Relations Bill may be one of the first big tests of the Federal Government’s new privacy legislation.

The Master Builders’ Association is seeking feedback from the Office of the Federal Privacy Commissioner to check the legality of new provisions in the Bill, which will allow union representatives to have access to previously confidential non-union pay and time sheets.

While it is too early to make outright claims that the new provisions would be illegal, Mr McLean believes them to be opposed to what the privacy law aims to achieve.

“We think this (Industrial Relations Bill) is quite incompatible with the spirit of the new privacy laws, which gives both the employee and employer alike the right to protect their privacy,” Mr McLean said.

These laws will basically put the (privacy) law on one side.”

He said many workers would not want their wages and conditions to be let out into the open and potentially get back to their fellow workers.

“We are enquiring if the new Industrial Relations Bill will be in fact in breach of the new privacy laws but are very sure that it goes against the spirit of the law.

Deacons lawyers industrial relations senior associate Alistair Salmon said employee records were exempt from the Privacy Act and so union access to non-union employee records would not be considered illegal unless the letter of employment stated confidentiality.

However, he said it would be incredible that unions would be able to seek information about people that were not their concern.

“I think it’s ridiculous,” Mr Salmon said.

“The unions only represent their members. The unions will be able to go in and look at every employee record, including the managing directors.

“It will basically give unions a free kick to embark on a recruitment drive.”

He said federal legislation such as the Privacy Act could not be over-ridden by State law.

Labour Relations Minister John Kobelke said he did not have any comment to make on the matter.

Chamber of Commerce and Industry of WA employee relations director Bruce Williams said unions were being given a free rein to sell their product at the workplace in a way not afforded to other sales people.

“They are selling something, just like anyone else,” Mr Williams said.

“If you were selling mobile phones you wouldn’t get that kind of access. The Government is basically giving the unions the right to market their product.”

Collecting sensitive information about an individual without the individual’s consent is contrary to the provisions of the Privacy Act.

Point 10(d) of the National Privacy Principle, which is a guide set up to assist business in the interpretation of the Privacy Act, states that if information is collected in the course of the activities of a non-profit organisation, the information must relate solely to the members of the organisation or to individuals who have regular contact with it in connection with its activities.

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