Union officials do not have an automatic right to enter workplaces. The Fair Work Act provides permit holders with a right to enter sites for particular purposes and sets out the requirements they must comply with when on a site. In WA, however, union officials may enter without prior notice to investigate suspected safety breaches.
Before entering your site, a union official must:
• hold a valid federal permit; and
• provide at least 24 hours’ written notice of entry
There is however an important exception to the 24-hour rule. Under WA’s Industrial Relations Act 1979 a union official can enter a workplace to investigate a suspected breach of the State Occupational Safety and Health Act 1984 (OSH Act). There is no requirement for the union official to provide prior notice. (Note the State IR Act does not apply to employers licensed under the federal Comcare scheme)
Note however that
- The union official must still hold an entry permit under the Fair Work Act
- the right of entry without notice only extends to entry, not inspection of employee records. If the union official wishes to inspect an employee record, then they must give at least 24 hours’ written notice
For more detailed information, click here to download the Australian Building and Construction Commission’s fact sheet or contact CCF WA.
The ABCC also has a hotline for assistance regarding right of entry issues on 1800 003 338.