The Fair Work Commission (“FWC”) has held that Facebook “likes” are not enough to show that a majority of employees are in support of an application for union registration as an enterprise association.

In a battle for members, a new union iCabin Crew Connect (“Union”) applied to the FWC to become a registered union covering Virgin Australia’s 2000-plus cabin crew employees. In order to gain registration, the Union had to establish that it had majority support of the employees it was seeking to represent.

To demonstrate majority support, the Union unsuccessfully sought to rely on a range of communications including 500 “likes” from employees on the Union’s Facebook page.

The FWC dismissed the Association’s application, holding that “the majority of the communications were not expressions of support of the requisite kind” and even if they were, did not constitute a majority of the relevant class of employees.

Food for thought: As unions continue efforts to boost membership and stay relevant to modern workforces, companies that employ workers that fall within union coverage should keep their ears close to the ground (or should we say the computer screen?) as Facebook and Twitter “campaigning” becomes more frequent and accessible. Expect also to see more jostling between competing unions for membership and recognition at the workplace.

Social media campaigning also opens up another avenue for workplace bullying and coercion in support of a union’s agenda. It is important to have good grievance policies and procedures to be able to investigate and discipline workers for intimidation or bullying occurring between workers on social media platforms.

Katrina Li and Chris Tan