Fair Work Australia to rule on union coverage

August 2, 2009

Construction giant John Holland was the first employer to lodge an application with Labor's new Fair Work Australia industrial umpire. It asked FWA to rule on which union has coverage at its controversial West Gate Bridge site in Melbourne.

The company is pushing for the Australian Workers Union (AWU) to be the only union representing construction workers on the site.

Earlier this year John Holland provoked a three-month long industrial dispute with the Construction Forestry Mining Energy Union (CFMEU) and the Australian Manufacturing Workers Union (AMWU) on the West Gate Bridge site.

Thirty-nine AMWU and CFMEU members were sacked in March after John Holland sought to make a new agreement with the AWU that cut wages and conditions. John Holland management has not honoured a settlement struck on May 15 with the CFMEU and AMWU, which was supposed to end the dispute.

AWU Victorian branch secretary Cesar Melhem told Workplace Express that "the issue is not about John Holland choosing a union, but rather about which union is entitled under its rules to represent workers on the project". In the same article he said the AWU should still represent riggers and scaffolders on the site, not the CFMEU.

John Holland appears happy to portray this dispute as a fight between two unions. However, it is clear that the company does not want the CFMEU and AMWU to cover workers on the site.

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