Visy is taking 69 workers to the Federal Court, seeking compensation over an alleged unlawful industrial action that occurred last month at one of the company’s Victorian sites.
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Visy is claiming that a dispute over a drug and alcohol policy led to some staff refusing to perform overtime in protest. These staff actions occurred in July, despite the new policy being approved by the health and safety committee. Subsequently, Visy stood aside two delegates due to their actions. The consequence of this decision led to a large portion of the Visy workforce taking strike action.
The matter has previously been heard at a Fair Work Commission hearing, concerning the treatment of the two delegates. However, the matter has since made its way to the Federal Court.
On Wednesday the Federal Court hearing issued an order requiring Visy to serve a statement of claim by mid-September to the court and for the union’s officials and workers to file a defence by October. However, prior to a hearing commencing the issue will go to mediation.
The Fair Work Act
Under the Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth) employees can only strike under limited circumstances. These circumstances include bargaining for an enterprise agreement.The law distinguishes between ‘protected’ industrial action and ‘unprotected’ industrial action.The Fair Work website provides a range of resources on Industrial action to assist employees and businesses dealing with industrial action.
If the industrial action is considered as unprotected, the business affected is allowed to seek compensation for business loss suffered and can seek fines against the individuals taking industrial action, by taking the matter to the courts.
Visy is relying on unprotected industrial action in this matter. Business owners should watch intently with how the courts approach and apply the Fair Work Act in relation to Visy. Connect with LawPath’s business lawyers as they can assist a business being affected by industrial action.
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