The ACTU has welcomed a decision by the Full Bench of the Australian Industrial Relations Commission (18/3/05)) to ensure employees can agree with their employers to have access to union representatives in their workplace.

ACTU President Sharan Burrow said:

“The ACTU is pleased with this decision but not entirely surprised.

The Commission has undertaken a careful and considered analysis of previous
High Court decisions relating to what pertains to the employment relationship in
light of the High Court ‘Electrolux’ decision in late last year.

The ‘Electrolux’ decision put in doubt the ability of unions and employers to
make agreements on matters that were not related to the ’employment

However, the Commission has now confirmed that certain matters that support
employees having access to a union at work are able to be included in collective

The Commission has confirmed that:

  • Parties can bargain to allow union delegates or shop stewards time to
    perform their role in grievance and dispute resolution processes in the
    workplace and to provide time off for union training.
  • Agreements can include the right of unions to enter workplaces to assist
    employees and to ensure that award wages and conditions are being complied with.
  • Employees have a legitimate interest in whether their employer uses
    contractors or labour hire companies as this is an issue that obviously affects
    their job security.
  • Salary sacrifice arrangements can be contained in collective agreements as
    they relate to how wages are paid and are clearly matters pertaining to the
    employment relationship.
  • The six issues in dispute in this case were: union right of entry; union
    training leave; union recognition / recognition of delegates; payroll
    deductions; conditions of labour hire employees; and salary sacrifice

    Of these, the unions involved in the case have won the right to include in
    collective agreements all matters except provisions concerning payroll

    This decision puts paid to the belief that the Electrolux case knocked-off
    bargaining about the role of unions in the workplace.

    The Commission in its decision rejected major aspects of the submissions from
    the Federal Government and employer bodies.

    Once again, this decision confirms the importance of having the Commission as
    an independent umpire that settles disputes, fosters agreements between
    employers and employees and is able to set minimum wages and conditions.”

    Further information: AIRC decision :