Fair Work Commission Clears Path For Merger Ballot

MUA members have been given the go ahead to conduct a ballot to approve their historic merger with the CFMEU and TCFUA.

MUA members have been given the go ahead to conduct a ballot to approve their historic merger with the CFMEU and TCFUA.

The Australian Electoral Commission (AEC) will conduct the ballot that will open on September 28 and close on November 23.

Fair Work Commission Deputy President Val Gostencnik approved the application of the MUA, CFMEU and TCFUA under the Fair Work Registered Organisations Act to submit the proposal to a ballot.

Gostencnik rejected AMOU and AIMPE objections that the proposed name of the merged union – the Construction, Forestry, Maritime, Mining and Energy Union (CFMMEU) – would cause confusion. 

He also accepted that technical objections raised by AMMA and the MBA had been addressed by each of the unions putting a corrected amalgamation scheme to their committees of management. 

The proposed merger clearly and unambiguously preserves the financial, political and industrial identity of the MUA as a separate division while promoting and encouraging more effective use of resources in campaigns and organising.

Gostencnik exempted the CFMEU from balloting its members because they are not required to vote when the number of members that would be admitted is lower than the 25 per cent trigger. 

The combined membership of the MUA and TCFU amounts to 16,022, or about 12.5% of the CFMEU's complement, the union's barrister, Tony Slevin, told a hearing on August 4. 

Gostencnik said the law would not allow him to reject the CFMEU's exemption bid as there were no special circumstances.

This prompted predictable grandstanding from Federal Employment Minister Michaelia Cash who somehow came to the conclusion that this showed the law on union mergers was inadequate.

"The current law is clearly deficient as it does not enable the public interest, the interests of affected employees or even the interests of members to be properly taken into account," Cash told The Australian Financial Review.

Cash will press ahead with the Government’s Registered Organisations (Ensuring Integrity) Bill 2017, which will likely be voted on in October.The bill says the Fair Work Commission must not only have regard to the compliance record of unions but the impact a merger would be likely to have on employers.

It allows Senator Cash, employers and conservative state government ministers — all opposed to the MUA-CFMEU merger — to make submissions opposing the merger.

The Government’s Bill  goes even further than the far-reaching recommendations of the extreme political bias of the Heydon Royal Commission against the trade union and labour movement.

The Bill potentially contravenes Article 3 of the Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organise Convention 1948 (No. 87) (ILO Convention 87), one of the eight ‘fundamental’ ILO conventions.

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