The Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth) (‘Act’) enables union officials to enter workplaces for specific purposes. This may include the investigation of suspected breaches of the Act or the exercise of rights under state work health and safety laws. However, a question has been raised as to whether union officials have an obligation to show their Federal right of entry permit before entering a workplace or work site if requested.
In 2018, the Australian Building and Construction Commission (ABCC) sought to prevent union officials from entering a work site in circumstances where they failed or refused to produce their permit when requested. This was as a result of the ABCC seeing a common trend where union officials sought to unlawfully enter a construction site, resulting in delays in the completion of a project.
In 2019, it was decided by the Federal Court that union officials are required to hold and show (when requested) their Federal right of entry permit. An appeal by the applicable union to the Full Federal Court was dismissed and this was later affirmed by the High Court on 8 April 2021, when the High Court refused the unions’ special leave to appeal.
This decision has now set a precedent, whereby it was ruled that union officials have a requirement to hold and present their Federal right of entry permit when entering a construction site or exercising a valid state or territory right.