AWU penalised for discriminating against non-striking members

The Federal Court has handed the Australian Workers’ Union (AWU) an $18,000 penalty for its treatment two of its members who refused to participate in an industrial action it organised against Orica Australia Pty Ltd

The two workers, Orica employees who worked at Deer Park manufacturing plant in Melbourne, refused to take part in AWU’s protected industrial action against their employer on 3 March 2015.

At that time, the AWU was negotiating with Orica Australia in relation to a new Enterprise Agreement covering Deer Park workers.

The two workers were eventually charged for violating the AWU’s rules, saying that they had, by their conduct, engaged in “gross misbehaviour” and had failed to comply with a “resolution or direction lawfully passed or given” because they had not participated in the industrial action.

The AWU eventually withdrew the charges against the two workers on 2 September 2015 after the FWO began investigating the matter.

The Court found that the AWU contravened the Fair Work Act by taking adverse action against two members who only exercised a workplace right and chose not engage in industrial activity.

“All workers, including union members, have the lawful right to choose whether they will or will not participate in protected industrial action,” Fair Work Ombudsman, Sandra Parker, said.

“It is unlawful for unions and employers to take adverse action against any worker for exercising that right and we are prepared to take enforcement action to protect these integral workplace rights.”

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