14 October 2019

Noting that “going out on strike is all but outlawed in Australia, thanks to some of the most restrictive laws surrounding workplace action in any OECD nation,” Sam Wallman gives a recent example of the Kafkaesque system for taking protected industrial action: “In drafting their application, the [Melbourne Metro] workers and their union [the RTBU] ticked every box, followed every process and procedure, but a court order put a stop to their plan to leave the ticket gates of stations open for one day in August as a bargaining tactic. … The court order went further than just vetoing the tactic: it demanded that the union post notices at every station within twenty-four hours — this happened on a Saturday — in which they formally retracted their plans. The RTBU was also told to take out full-page ads in all the major newspapers the next day to announce that their action wasn’t going ahead. Since getting a full-page ad in every copy of the papers turned out to be an impossible ask, the union was found in breach of the court order. As a result, any industrial action taken would now be unlawful. The union could face millions of dollars in fines and potential deregistration if they continue in the face of the court’s decision. … There is a legal appeal moving slowly through the courts… [T]he potential legal precedent in this case is extremely dangerous and could limit our right to ‘simply stop working’ even further.“