An employer acted unreasonably in citing COVID-19 concerns to block a union official from entering a workplace lunchroom, given it failed to apply its COVID-safety policies consistently and the official didn't pose additional risks, the Fair Work Commission has found.
Right-of-entry permit holders who fail to comply with a site's safety rules can be taken to have acted in an "improper manner" in breach of Fair Work laws, the Federal Court has ruled in a case against a CFMMEU organiser who refused to wear safety glasses and overalls.
In an important judgment on the interaction of WHS and industrial laws, a full Federal Court has confirmed union officials cannot bypass right-of-entry requirements by attending a worksite under provisions for resolving work health and safety matters.
WHS entry permit holders were entitled to rely on "hearsay information" from a union safety hotline to form the suspicion that WHS contraventions were occurring at a site, a commission has ruled. It also found the union was not required, for entry purposes, to obtain and record the names of hotline complainants.
A senior worksite manager allowed his preconceptions of a union to "colour his attitude" when he breached the Fair Work Act, and showed disregard for WHS laws, by ripping up entry notices and telling officials they couldn't investigate serious safety issues until after a site meeting, the Federal Court has found.
The Fair Work Commission has advised an employer and a union to adopt a "new cooperative approach" to workplace safety concerns during the COVID-19 pandemic, after the former sought orders curtailing the union's entry rights in light of current health restrictions.
WHS entry permit holders are permitted, from today, to photograph or film suspected safety contraventions at ACT workplaces, under a Bill that also adopts $500,000 "prohibited asbestos" fines and amends workers' compensation laws.