The debate on what is to be done about slowing wages growth of Australian workers is, understandably, receiving an increased focus in the midst of an intense election campaign.

The Labor Party has described this election as “A referendum on wages”. The Australian Council of Trade Unions, under its “Change the Rules” campaign, argues that

Trade union conduct is constantly changing, and our team have observed trends that are reshaping the boundaries, and that have already begun to impact our clients.

Policy Measures: increased scrutiny on trade union conduct

On the policy front, the conservative government has implemented three measures addressing unlawful behaviour by unions and their members based on the findings of former High Court Justice John Dyson Heydon AC QC in the Royal Commission into Trade Union Governance and Corruption in 2015.

Two key measures passed in late 2016.


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Disciplining union members for engaging in conduct during the course of union activities (like protests) can be fraught with risk.  Employers may quickly find themselves faced with an adverse action claim, as was the case when BHP terminated a mineworker who had displayed the sign “No principles SCABS No guts” at a protest outside the front gates of BHP’s Saraji Mine in Queensland.
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Employers connected with the construction industry will be aware that in April the Minister for Employment issued an advance release of the Building and Construction Industry (Fair and Lawful Building Sites) Code (Draft Code) as part of the proposed reforms of the building and construction industry.  The advance release coincided with attempts by construction unions to pre-empt the new code by making agreements preserving non-compliant content before it commenced operation.
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