One of Australias largest unions is to develop a detailed protocol to govern electronic surveillance in the workplace.

The Australian Workers’ Union’s National Conference meeting in Queensland today will adopt the plan in response to increasing levels of electronic monitoring of workers by video, computer and e-mail.

AWU National Secretary Bill Shorten said the union welcomed New South Wales legislation controlling covert workplace monitoring and would support the enactment of similar laws in the other States and Territories. A resolution to be debated at the Conference proposes guidelines for the union protocol.

“The AWU regards covert or secret monitoring of workers as totally unacceptable. We also will not accept any surveillance at all of change rooms, conveniences, crib rooms or utility areas,” Mr Shorten said.

“Monitoring of workstations should only be tolerated in extremely limited circumstances, for example when there is no alternative to dealing with a serious occupational health and safety issue and all the workers potentially affected by the surveillance have been consulted.”

“Employers and managers must understand that they cannot take the law into their own hands. If they have concerns about a health or safety matter, there are proper occupational health and safety procedures to be followed. Similarly, if employers have suspicions about potential legal issues, they can raise them with the police or other authorities,” Mr Shorten said.

When finalised, the AWU’s protocol on workplace surveillance could be included in industrial Awards or enterprise agreements with employers.