10 February 2020

The AWU has been fined $18,000 for asking two scabs to explain why they should be allowed to remain members of the union. In 2015, AWU members at an Orica factory voted to take protected industrial action, but two members refused to participate; the union wrote to them and asked them to explain why they should not be expelled. Justice Snaden explained that of the objects of the Fair Work Act is “the protection of free association”, but in an Orwellian twist he decided AWU members had to be punished for exercising their right not to associate with scabs, because this would “punish them for their [the scabs’] decision to dissociate themselves from the broader AWU collective”. So scabs have a right to dissociate from the union, but union members will be fined for dissociating from scabs? “Fair” Work Act, indeed. (The Fair Work Ombudsman decided this case was worse than serious wage theft. Last year, it let Sunglass Hut off the hook with just a $50,000 “contrition payment” for $2.3 million in underpayments, but here it prosecuted the AWU and sought penalties of “between $77,760 and $87,480” — even Justice Snaden, a former Liberal student politician and barrister for militant employers, said this was “extreme” and “well above what is appropriate”. Priorities!)