Technical changes to the Fair Work system, made by the Commonwealth this week, will allow a third party impacted by strike action to apply to the Fair Work Commission (FWC) to suspend or terminate that action.
Resource industry employer group Australian Mines and Metals Association chief executive Steve Knott said the new regulation will allow a minister of a state which has not referred its industrial relations powers to the Commonwealth, to apply to the Fair Work Commission for the suspension or termination of protected industrial action.
“Such a power exists presently for the ministers of all the states except for Western Australia, where industrial action often threatens both state operations and international trade activities of great national significance,” he said.
“This move recognises that strike action sometimes has far broader impacts than just the direct parties, including hurting employers and employees on both sides of the supply chain and disrupting economic activities more widely.
“Ultimately, the Fair Work Commission will decide how it deals with these matters on a case-by-case basis, but clearly any workplace system that allows a third party to be so heavily impacted by strike action should be amended so they can state their case to the tribunal.”
Recent disputes between the AMMA and Maritime Union of Australia (MUA) have resulted in approval of industrial action from Fair Work Australia for tugboat deckhands employed by Teekay Shipping at the Port Hedland.
Strike action at the iron ore loading facility were expected to cost the industry somewhere in the order of $100 million per day of protected action, however the MUA delayed strike action in order to continue negotiations.
Knott said the cost of such a strike action to the state of Western Australia would be substantial.
“At a state level, such a stoppage would cost Western Australian taxpayers around $7 million per day in revenue foregone in lost iron ore royalties,” he said.
“Over three days that is the entire state budget for homeless support or the cost of building a new primary school.
“There is also a greater cost to consider to our international reputation as a reliable supplier of resource commodities. This reputation has been hard won but can be easily lost.
“Australia does not have a monopoly on such exports and provisions such as those introduced by the government this week will assist in minimising the impact of unnecessary strike action on our national reputation and global competitiveness.”