06/07/2004 - 22:00

State IR law test looming

06/07/2004 - 22:00

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State IR law test looming

A case heard before Justice Robert French in the Federal Court could have major ramifications for Western Australia’s industrial relations laws.

The case of BGC Contracting, Shamrock Holdings and SNC Lavalin against the Construction Forestry Mining and Energy Union is over whether having a workforce employed under Federal Australian Workplace Agreements removes union right-of-entry under WA’s IR laws.

Industry sources suggest the case could end up in the High Court of Australia, whichever side wins, with the constitutional point of Federal law overriding State law at question.

Master Builders Association industrial relations manager Kim Richardson said if the case reached that stage and the High Court ruled that AWAs overruled the State right-of-entry provisions it would “blow a big hole” in the State’s IR laws.

Gadens Lawyers partner Allan Drake-Brockman said if the matter proceeded to the High Court and the court decided in favour of BGC, “unions are likely to be locked out by the Federal laws”.

The State laws give unions much broader right of entry.

There is currently a Federal Court injunction preventing CFMEU officials from entering the Burrup Fertilisers site.

BGC argues the union cannot use its right-of-entry under the State laws because the employees in question are on AWAs.

However, BGC is also concerned that by denying the union access to the site, it could run foul of another section of WA’s IR laws governing union access and face penalties.

One argument the CFMEU is running in its case is that not all of the employees on the site were on valid AWAs.

A decision on the case is expected later this month.

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