No need to explain to employees a majority support petition

The union (Broken Hill Town Employees Union) made application to FWA for a majority support determination (section 236) at Medirest. To make a determination FWA need to be satisfied that a majority of employees want to bargain. The employer raised three concerns in opposing the application.

Firstly, the employer argued the use of the word “at a time” (section 237(2)(a)(i) means at a “single point in time” rather than over the 16 day period the union took to gather employee signatures. Commissioner Raffaelli was not prepared to restrict “at a time” to a “particular day or time of day”.

Secondly, the employer argued ascertaining whether a majority of employees want to bargain should occur following the lodgement of an application rather than on material filed with the application. The Commissioner disagreed holding the “method FWA considers appropriate can be a method used in the past”.

Thirdly, the employer argued information needed to be provided to employees explaining to them the circumstances that would apply if they signed the document. They argued as this didn’t happen many of the employees who signed the letter did not understand what they were signing. The letter as signed by 32 of 39 employees was headed: “We, the undersigned, hereby request that Medirest (Australia) Pty Ltd commence negotiation for an Enterprise Agreement for employees at Broken Hill”. The Commissioner found the letter makes it clear employees wanted to bargain, there was no evidence employees were forced to sign and what employees were informed was not relevant.

The Commissioner found that 32 of 39 employees want to bargain and the group was “fairly chosen”. On this basis the majority support determination was made.