The MUA’s final legal hurdle to its historic merger with the CFMEU and TCFUA has been cleared with the Fair Work Commission knocking back an appeal by rogue employer groups the Australian Mines and Metal Association and Master Builders Australia.
AMMA and the MBA opposed the merger on the grounds that two of the unions involved were currently subject to civil penalty proceedings and a contempt proceeding pending in the Supreme Court of Victoria in a move widely seen as an attempt to buy time for the Turnbull Government to try to pass through the Parliament its so-called Ensuring Integrity Bill that would insert a “public interest test”.
However, the Full Bench of the Fair Work Commission said on Friday that an earlier finding by Deputy President Val Commissioner Gostencnik was correct in saying that the merger could not be blocked for failing to meet the requirements of the Registered Organisations Act.
Under the Registered Organisations Act, the Commission can approve an amalgamation if “there are no proceedings (other than civil proceedings)” pending against any of the organisations that are involved in the merger.
In the decision delivered on March 6, Deputy President Gostencnik determined that March 27 was the day upon which the amalgamation would take effect.
In accordance with the decision, the amalgamation took effect on 27 March 2018 so that the MUA and the TCFUA were deregistered and the CFMEU became the Construction, Forestry, Maritime, Mining and Energy Union (CFMMEU).
The appeal lodged on March 8 by AMMA and the MBA in effect sought to unwind the amalgamation and buy time for the Turnbull Government to try to pass through the Parliament its attempt to kill off the merger.
The Turnbull Government said repeatedly that it intended to insert a “public interest test” into the list of criteria for union mergers but the so-called Ensuring Integrity Bill has been stalled in the Senate since late last year.
MUA National Secretary Paddy Crumlin said it should be up to union members - not employer groups or the Turnbull Government on their ideological crusade against unions - to decide whether unions should merge.
"The MUA vigorously opposed the appeal and sought to defend the rights of workers seeking to engage in freedom of association,” Crumlin said.
"Our members have overwhelmingly supported this amalgamation and it should be up to them to decide whether they merge.”
“As discussed at length during the recent inaugural conference on the Gold Coast, this merger means that maritime, construction, forestry, mining and manufacturing workers will have an industry union that is able to represent them more effectively."
Crumlin said bigger can be better so long as members are supporting it.
"Do you think the shipping companies aren’t merging together with the mining companies who are merging together with the transport companies that are merging together with the rail companies, that are merging together with retailers?,” Crumlin said.
"So big business and multinational capital can avoid tax and responsibility by vertically and horizontally integrating themselves through the supply chain from mining to manufacturing to retail and workers can’t do the same thing?
“This is just the start of it there are going to be bigger and better and stronger unions in this country that will change the rules – rules made by governments to eliminate working rights not to promote them.
"That’s what the Turnbull Government and employer groups are objecting to - a strong union, a real union and a union that has total support of workers in that industry.”
MUA Deputy National Secretary Will Tracey said this was the second time this week the MUA had beaten legal action designed by anti-union forces against the interests of working people.
“The MUA’s legal win against renowned anti-union groups AMMA and the MBA, in addition to the defeat of the Fair Work Ombudsman at Hutchison, is good news for members and shows the benefit of standing up and fighting back against those who don’t want the amalgamated union to proceed,” Tracey said.
“Well we’ve got bad news for our opponents - as anyone who was at the recent inaugural conference will tell you, no-one from any of the three amalgamated unions is going to take a backwards step when it comes to representing the best interests of our members."