On November 15, 2000 members of the Electrical Trades Union packed Dallas Brooks Hall to discuss an initial response to the federal government's denial of a common law agreement between the ETU and National Electrical Contractors Association (NECA) that covered 10,000 workers and about 1000 employers.
In September, the Department of Employment and Workplace Relations and the Office of the Employment Advocate had both certified that the ETU-NECA agreement complied with the law.
However, on November 3, workplace relations minister Kevin Andrews had unilaterally changed the federal Coalition government's national guidelines for the building and construction industry, prohibiting agreements containing important rights for workers, including the right to attend union-provided health and safety training.
The changes introduced by Andrews ban agreements that contain important provisions such as prompt dispute settlement procedures involving union delegates, rights for paid leave to attend union-provided health and safety training, and rights for an internal review of dismissal decisions. Companies that do not comply with this ban cannot bid for federal government-funded construction work.
The November 15 mass meeting resolved that ETU members would only support union-approved agreements and that the ETU would not sign off on any agreement that takes away crucial union rights for members, shop stewards and officials.