The Federal Government is moving to block the creation of a super-union involving the nation’s biggest maritime and construction unions, media reports suggest.
News Ltd has reported that the Turnbull government will move next week to introduce legislation which would force the Fair Work Commission (FWC) to apply a public-interest test to any mergers.
The move is designed to thwart attempts by the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union to merge with the Maritime Union of Australia as well as the smaller Textile, Clothing and Footware Union of Australia (TUA).
The unions announced their intention to merge in October 2015 – a move which the unions themselves say will create a more powerful and better resourced organisation which was better able to serve its members but which business fears will lead to an organisation with the capacity to cause industrial chaos throughout supply chains.
That proposal is being considered by the Fair Work Commission, which is expected to release its decision later this year.
According to the reports, the government is seeking to introduce an amendment to the Fair Work (Registered Organisation Act) next Wednesday which would apply a new public-interest test for union mergers and amalgamations which would require the Fair Work Commission to consider any record of law breaking and whether or not the merger served the public interest.
The legislation would also make it easier for unions who breached workplace rules on a continuous basis to be deregistered.
If passed, the laws may serve to block the CFMEU-MUA amalgamation which would create a super union which according to figures quoted in The Australian would have a combined current membership of more than 140,000 and assets (as at the end of 2016) worth almost $150 million.
Business leaders have long called for a public interest test to be introduced before the two unions are able to combine their operations, saying that the unions have a longstanding history of militancy and lawlessness.
The merger, they argue, would create an unaccountable organisation which could disrupt operations throughout supply chains.