THE Western Australian Industrial Relations Commission has given unions a greater say regarding the venue for holding union meetings.
In the Independent Schools Salaried Officers’ Association of WA, Industrial Union of Workers v The Most Reverend B Hickey, Archbishop of Perth and Others the union submitted that the school staff room was the most appropriate venue for holding union meetings and that a union representative should not be denied access to this venue.
The respondents submitted that the custom and practise in schools was that union meetings are not held in the staff room and that meetings in schools had taken place away from the staff room without incident.
Commissioner Harrison referred to the recent amendments to the right of entry provisions of the Industrial Relations Act and found that an order should issue ensuring that the relevant union was not hindered in the holding of discussions with relevant employees when visiting the respondent’s schools.
The commissioner found that: "In many instances the school staff room would be the most appropriate venue for holding union meetings even though some staff members may not wish to be involved in these discussions. Even though it appears that the school staff room is not the current place where union meetings are held in masy schools, it is clear that the staff room is usually centrally located in the school and it is the place where staff congregate during breaks".
The WAIRC found that nominating a possible venue for union meetings to be held in a school is not inconsistent with the powers of entry under Division 2G of the Act.
The decision is one of the first to apply the new rights of entry provisions of the State Act.
The findings of Commissioner Harrison appear to significantly enhance union rights of entry and specifically the right of the union to identify the venue for meetings with employees to be held.
Time will tell whether a broad approach to union rights of entry will flow onto other industry sectors.
Allan Drake-Brockman, partner
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