Scott's faces union action over workplace agreement

TWU wins right to seek support from Scott's employees for industrial action against new workplace agreement

By Brad Gardner | March 19, 2010

The petroleum division of transporter Scott's Agencies faces the prospect of industrial action by the trucking union after it won the right to ballot workers over a new workplace agreement.

Fair Work Australia granted the ballot application to the Transport Workers Union (TWU) to seek support for overtime and work bans and industrial stoppages from Scott Petroleum workers covered by the proposed enterprise agreement.

Under the ballot, the TWU will ask employees to refuse to work more than seven hours a day from Monday to Friday and any work on the weekend. Workers will also be asked to refuse to perform regular duties during stoppages, except when supplying fuel to emergency services.

The union has listed proposed stoppage actions: four hours, 24 hours and indefinite if workers do not get their way. There is no limit on how many times the actions can be organised and carried out.

"Having heard from the applicant and the employer of the employees to be balloted I will issue an order for a protected action ballot," Commissioner Michelle Bissett says.

"I am satisfied that the applicant is genuinely trying to reach an agreement with the employer of the employees to be balloted."

Bissett's ruling came despite concerns from Scott's over the impact industrial action may have on the company's ability to supply fuel to emergency services.

Instead of the existing requirement to give three days notice of a stoppage, Scott's asked for Fair Work Australia to impose a seven day notice period.

"This application is pursued on the basis that it will take seven days to notify emergency services of the likely effect of bans," Bissett says.

The Commissioner was told the extra time would allow emergency services to stock up on fuel or to find an alternative supplier.

But Bissett dismissed the application because the union pledged services would continue despite industrial action.

"The TWU did indicate that it would not be their intention in pursuing industrial action to disrupt the provision of emergency services," Bissett says.

Furthermore, the application was opposed after Fair Work Australia was told Scott's did not have a monopoly on supply and its fuel deliveries to emergency services was a small part of the business.

"They are not the sole provider to emergency services nor the sole provider of the product they deliver," Bissett says.

The voting on the ballot will close on April 8.

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