NUW faces court over alleged illegal protests

FWO is seeking penalties for four alleged contraventions and compensation for the companies involved

NUW faces court over alleged illegal protests
A directions hearing is scheduled in the Federal Court in Melbourne on July 21.


The Fair Work Ombudsman (FWO) is taking legal action against the National Union of Workers (NUW) over alleged illegal industrial action at two Woolworths distribution centres (DC) in Melbourne last year.

The FWO alleges that members of the union violated Fair Work Act 2009 laws by organising unlawful industrial action at two subsidiary companies of the supermarket giant in Laverton and Broadmeadows in August last year.

The Ombudsman is seeking penalties for four alleged contraventions (of up to $54,000 each) and an additional order for the union to pay an undisclosed amount in compensation to the two companies for losses and damages they suffered.

The union will face the Federal Court in Melbourne on July 21 over allegations that NUW members took part in the unlawful protests against the companies’ decision to hire casual workers through a third-party labour hire agency, Chandler MacLeod.

The FWO alleges that over 200 workers held protests at the Laverton centre between August 10 and 13, and more than 50 workers took part in the industrial action at the Broadmeadows centre on August 13.

Union members allegedly formed picket lines to block vehicles and people from entering and exiting the Laverton centre.

The Ombudsman says the industrial action is "considered unprotected and therefore unlawful because it occurred before the nominal expiry date of the enterprise agreements covering employees at the Laverton and Broadmeadows centres".

It also alleges that the union violated the general protections provisions of the Act by protesting with the intent to coerce Woolstar (one of the companies involved in the case) into not using casual labour during non-peak periods unless the NUW agreed to it.

Fair Work Ombudsman Natalie James says the decision was made "to bring legal action against the NUW because enforcing compliance with workplace laws relating to industrial action and Fair Work Commission orders is fundamental for maintaining the integrity of Australia’s system of industrial laws".

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