FWC rejects MMA’s appeal in MUA ballot ruling

Commission permits maritime union to hold protected action ballot

FWC rejects MMA’s appeal in MUA ballot ruling
MMA Offshore has been opposed to the protected action ballot.


Sticking to its last month’s decision, the Fair Work Commission (FWC) has rejected MMA Offshore’s appeal against the commission’s previous decision regarding granting permission to the members of the Maritime Union of Australia (MUA) to organise a protected action ballot of employees.

The FWC refuses permission to appeal against the decision on the grounds that it did not consider the company’s grounds of appeal to be "sufficiently arguable to support the conclusion that the decision was attended with sufficient doubt to warrant its reconsideration or manifested any injustice".

Outlining its reasoning, the commission states: "We consider that the decision addressed those submissions advanced by MMA which went to the core issue of whether the MUA was genuinely trying to reach an agreement with MMA.

"The second reason for our refusal of permission is that the appeal grounds did not contend that the decision contained any error of fact."

Lastly, "the appeal did not raise any question of general application concerning the interpretation or application of s.443(1) that would justify the grant of permission in the public interest or on discretionary grounds."

At the heart of matter is an ongoing disagreement over a proposed enterprise agreement.

While the company wants to bring all seafarers on its offshore vessels engaged in the oil and gas industry under a "generic" agreement, the unions argues that a "one fleet" scope like this will not leave provision for specific agreements covering seafarers eligible to belong to the union.

Last December, the union sought permission to organise a protected action ballot that aimed to get employee feedback on proposals related to a planned industrial action.

The ballot includes questions regarding unlimited number of stoppages and bans on tie-ups, let-gos, use of cranes, and anchor handling.

MMA Offshore has been opposed to the ballot, and the planned industrial action, and argued its case in the January and February hearings.

However, the commission was satisfied that the MUA’s application met with the relevant provisions of the Fair Work Act 2009, before passing the order on May 17, approving the proposed ballot.

The commission states that MMA Offshore lodged its appeal against the FWC decision 21 days after it was handed down, and sought an expedited hearing of the appeal.

MMA Offshore "sought an expedited hearing of the appeal on the basis that s.606(3) of the Fair Work Act 2009 did not permit the grant of a stay in relation to a protected action ballot order and MMA did not want to be exposed to the risk of damaging industrial action that might follow from the conduct of the ballot while its appeal was on foot".

On June 17, the commission turned down the company’s permission for further appeal.

ATN is awaiting response from the MUA regarding details of the proposed ballot.

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