The full bench of the Federal Court today ruled unanimously in favour of an ABCC initiated appeal against a previous decision of the Federal Court regarding the primacy of the Victorian Occupational Health and Safety Act over the Fair Work Act.
The question before the Chief Justice Allsop, Justice White and Justice O’Callaghan was whether the Fair Work Act; Right of Entry regime (Sec. 494) trumps the Vic OHS Act (Sec. 58.1.f) regarding the right of an OHS rep to invite any person into a workplace provided that the person has sufficient OHS knowledge to assist the OHS Rep with safety matters.
This ruling has profound implications for the safety of all Victorian workers as the ruling is not limited to the construction sector.
The result of this ruling will have particularly profound implications for hazardous industries.
The head of the CFMEU’s safety team, Doctor Gerry Ayers was shocked by the decision.
“This is about the safety of workers in an extremely hazardous industry. There simply shouldn’t be any impediment for any OHS representative to seek the assistance of anyone who’s qualified and has the experience to assist with safety. The ABCC have effectively forced their industrial agenda into the area of worker safety and they should be condemned for their actions.” Mr Ayers said.
Andrew McDougall, a CFMEU safety representative with over 25 year experience condemned the decision.
“I just can’t understand it. This decision will put workers lives at risk, pure and simple. I’ve been in this game for twenty five years and I can tell you the construction industry is dangerous every working day. When I invite an official onto site to assist with safety issues, it can often be a life or death matter,” Mr McDougall said.
CFMEU State Secretary John Setka has slammed the decision.
“At what point will the Government’s political police force prioritise the lives of workers over their campaign to destroy the union movement? Their decision to appeal demonstrates that the ABCC will spare no amount of tax payers’ dollars, or continue risking the lives of workers, to pursue their extreme ant-union crusade. At some point, the community has to say enough is enough,” Mr Setka said.
The CFMEU has consistently maintained that the union will not be intimidated by the Federal Government’s ongoing campaign to weaken the union movement.
“At some point this government is going to learn that when it comes to the safety of construction workers, the CFMEU won’t blink. They can waste all the tax payer dollars they want on their anti-union agenda, but we won’t be intimidated and we won’t stop fighting for workers’ rights and their safety,” Mr Setka said.
The CFMEU is considering seeking special leave to appeal the decision to the High Court.