Union Right of Entry

Oh, yes they can.  It is written in the Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth).  So, if you’ve been notified that a Union is going to knock on your door, what do you need to know about it?

First of all, the Union must have coverage in your workplace.  For example, the CFMEU (building industry Union) does not have right of entry into a retail outlet.  But the SDAEA (Shop, Distributive and Allied Employees Association) does.  There will be Union that covers every type of work, and sometimes more than one Union can have coverage in a workplace.

Second, the Union must have a specific reason, as stated in the Fair Work Act, to have right of entry.  The three reasons are:

  • Talks with potential members, and
  • Suspected breach of the Fair Work Act, or associated instruments (eg: Modern Awards, certified agreements), and

Talks can be just to speak to potential members about what the Union does, and the benefits of Union membership.

The Union will have the right to inspect time and wages records of a member if it can be reasonably suspected that there has been a breach, or also of a non-member if the Fair Work Commission has given an order for them to do so.

The Union may inspect a workplace that is suspected of breaching occupational health and safety legislation.

Thirdly, the Union representative (called a “permit holder”) must be able to produce a valid right of entry permit when requested, before entering the workplace.  It is not good enough to say “I’ve left in the car/office/wherever”.  This should outline who the person is, what Union they represent and the purpose of this visit and the date of the visit.

Most companies find that Union right of entry is not as bad as it sounds.  The main reason is usually for talks with potential members.  This can be in non-work time, in a non-work place, so usually lunchtime in the lunch room is pretty standard.  It can help to put up a notice letting employees know beforehand that a Union meeting will be going on, so they aren’t taken by surprise.  Of course, if you have any further questions, please do call me!