17 November 2020

After earlier ruling a McDonalds franchisee was liable for its threats to ban toilet breaks, the Federal Court has imposed a significant penalty — $10,000 directly to the worker who stuck her neck out, and a further $76,000 to her union for taking the civil prosecution to court. After explaining his decision, Justice Logan added: “Ms Staines and the Union have each well-served the public interest. That is not an abstract concept. All Australians have an interest in the conduct of industrial relations, including the employment of workers, according to law. Parliament has provided for civil penalties to be imposed for contraventions of the FWA [Fair Work Act]. … Public resources allocated to police the FWA are limited. The financial ability of an individual worker to police a perceived contravention of the FWA is also in most cases limited. Workers, collectively, via a trade union, are thereby better equipped to do this. The policing by trade unions of compliance with industrial laws is a longstanding, legitimate role of trade unions. This does not just serve the interests of the particular workers concerned, or the trade union. It serves the national interest. … It is … important and necessary that the service of a trade union of a national interest be noted. For that reason, I conclude these reasons for judgment by recognising the service to the national interest by the Union in the circumstances of the present case.”