The right of unions to protect the identity of members during disputes has been confirmed by the Fair Work Commission (FWC).
In the recent Appeal decision of Australian Rail, Tram and Bus Industry Union-New South Wales Branch v Asciano Services Pty Ltd t/as Pacific National, a Full Bench decided that the RTBU:
- could notify Pacific National of a dispute in its own name on behalf of its members, and
- could file a dispute with the FWC in its own name as a representative.
RTBU National Lawyer Mark Diamond said the decision confirms employees can maintain their anonymity when they are adequately identified as a class or group.
“If the relevant dispute clause does not provide otherwise, a Union can now safely notify a Company of a dispute in its own name as a representative and even apply to the Commission in its own name as a representative.
“This approach ensures that the process is quick, informal and avoids unnecessary technicalities.”
The Full Bench clearly articulates that naming employees may still be required when it is necessary to characterise a dispute but otherwise identification as a class or group is sufficient. If identification is required, this can occur during the Commission process including by order of the Commission and is not a requirement otherwise.
"The decision assists in restoring the equilibrium in dispute processes in an already excessively employer focused industrial landscape,” Mr Diamond said.