The Fair Work Commission has recommended, rather than ordered, that AMEIU officials only enter a workplace monthly. The decision demonstrates the ambiguity surrounding the application of the new frequency of entry provisions introduced by the former Labor Government.

Since January 1 of this year, tribunal members may resolve disputes about frequency of entry by making orders to impose conditions or revoke/suspend entry permits where they are satisfied that the frequency of entry would “require an unreasonable diversion of the occupier’s critical resources.” The AMEIU had been exercising its rights of entry, but the employer was dissatisfied with the arrangements. The employer lodged a dispute with the Commission seeking to reduce the frequency and duration of visits, and requesting more power to restrict the location of discussions with employees and movement of officials during visits.

Commissioner Lewin made a recommendation of a three-month trial of monthly meetings in the lunch room during existing break times, but did not go so far as ordering such action. The AMEIU was not restricted to holding monthly meetings if an employee requested a meeting with it. In exercising his discretion to make a recommendation to the parties rather than an order, clarification of what is meant by “an unreasonable diversion of an employer’s critical resources” remains untested.

Key points for employers: 

  • Uncertainty still remains as to the degree to which employers can restrict the frequency of official permit holder visits to their workplace through the Commission.
  • Employers are encouraged to negotiate fair arrangements, as the Commission has been reluctant to exercise its discretion to make orders restricting such visits.

A link to the decision can be found here: Greenmountain Food Processing Pty Ltd v Australasian Meat Industry Employees Union [2014] FWC 3169