TWU set to gain foothold at Woolies-owned DC

TWU scores a victory in its attempt to gain access to employees at Woolworths-owned DC, overturning a decision banning entry

By Brad Gardner | December 7, 2011

The Transport Workers Union is set to gain access to employees at a Woolworths-owned distribution centre after a ruling banning it from setting foot on the premise was overturned.

The full bench of Fair Work Australia yesterday ruled the TWU should have access to some of the workforce at the Woolworths subsidiary Queensland Properties Investment, which warehouses groceries and fresh produce for supermarkets.

It quashed a ruling from January this year that found the union was not entitled to represent QPI workers because the business was not directly connected to the transport industry.

QPI does not own or operate prime movers or employ truck drivers, and it considered any TWU attempt to march onto its site as "invalid, and possibly unlawful".

However, the full bench says QPI is connected to the transport industry because staff load and unload heavy vehicles. It says the TWU should have access to forklift drivers, dispatchers, freight forwarders and loaders.

"We have considered the evidence ourselves and identified certain employees who are covered by the relevant occupational provisions of the TWU rules," the written judgment of the full bench says.

"It is possible that there may be other employees who, consistent with this decision, are also covered by the relevant part of the occupational rules."

Fair Work ordered the TWU and Woolworths to hold discussions over the extent of the union’s coverage.

During proceedings, QPI argued Fair Work needed to give close consideration to the employees, or classes of employees, covered.

"This is because a simple expression of opinion of occupational coverage of some employees, without identifying the employees or classes so covered, is likely to increase, rather than resolve, disputation," the full bench says.

Fair Work says the TWU should lodge a right of entry dispute if it and QPI fail to reach an agreement.

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