Victorian Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations Richard Dalla-Riva welcomed today's High Court ruling in favour of Bendigo TAFE.
"This important decision in the Barclay's case supports the principle that union officials will not enjoy blanket immunity when it comes to complying with acceptable standards of behaviour at work," Mr Dalla-Riva said.
"It is yet another reminder to the Gillard Government that Labor's workplace laws have tilted the balance far too strongly towards an adversarial system favouring the rights of union officials over employers and employees.
"The Victorian Coalition Government provided active support to Bendigo Regional Institute of TAFE because we believed this was a crucial test of the 'adverse action' principles under Labor's Fair Work Act 2009.
"These provisions have been a cause of concern for many employers, because of their impact on the right to take reasonable disciplinary action against employees who engage in misconduct. In this case, Bendigo TAFE had to defend action against an employee who also happened to be an officer of the Australian Education Union (AEU).
"It is unfortunate that the Commonwealth chose to oppose this appeal in support of the AEU and the union official involved.
"The Victorian Coalition Government now awaits a serious response from the Gillard Government to the High Court ruling. As we have argued repeatedly, there is ample scope to address the failings of Labor's workplace laws whilst still maintaining a guaranteed safety net of minimum terms and conditions of employment.
"The Prime Minister says her workplace laws are working well. Clearly, she is out of touch. So too, are the current generation of union leaders.
"Industrial disputes have spiked to an eight-year high under Labor's Fair Work Act. Union officials are adopting a 'strike first, bargain later' approach. Illegal picketing is now a weapon of choice for militant union leaders. The system is not delivering either the flexibility or productivity the economy needs to grow more strongly, and to generate investment and jobs.
"That is why the Victorian Coalition Government has been active in arguing for urgent and sensible reform. This government is committed to strengthening Victoria's industrial relations reputation to encourage investment and sustained economic growth.
Mr Dalla-Riva said the Barclay's Case was one of four important interventions by the Victorian Coalition Government since December 2010, in support of a more balanced approach, including:
National Retailers' Association case
Mr Dalla-Riva said the Victorian Coalition Government was alone among governments in intervening in support of the National Retailers' Association (NRA) against the Shop, Distributive and Allied Employees Union on the issue of minimum shifts.
"The Victorian Coalition Government supported the NRA case in the name of flexibility, because reducing the minimum hours to be worked per shift would promote greater employment opportunities for secondary school students seeking casual work after school, especially in regional Victoria,"
"The Federal Court ruled that the minimum shift in retail should be reduced from three to 1.5 hours," Mr Dalla-Riva said.
Mr Dalla-Riva also cited the October 2011 intervention by the Victorian Coalition Government in proceedings before Fair Work Australia, aimed at stopping the crippling impact on the tourism and aviation industries of industrial action at Qantas. It was not until the grounding of the Qantas fleet that the Commonwealth saw fit to seek a suspension of protected industrial action. The Victorian Coalition Government, together with the New South Wales Government, sought an immediate termination order to bring the damage to an end. When this decision was appealed to the Federal Court, we again intervened and the union application was dismissed.
Mr Dalla-Riva said the illegal blockade by the Victorian Construction, Forestry, Mining and Electrical Union (CFMEU) at the Emporium site in Melbourne's CBD has been one of several confrontations involving this union across the nation. The blockade persisted for more than a fortnight in defiance of the orders of Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Victoria, the Honourable Marilyn Warren.
"This blockade imposed unacceptable costs on the community, and posed a significant risk to public safety. That is why the Victorian Coalition Government sought leave to join in contempt proceedings at the Supreme Court against CFMEU officials," Mr Dalla-Riva said.
"Federal laws bestow significant privileges on registered organisations such as unions. Given these privileges, federal laws should no longer allow union officials to behave like delinquents and defy the orders of the courts of the land, including the Supreme Court.
"That is why Premier Ted Baillieu has written to the Prime Minister on behalf of the state government seeking an urgent reappraisal of federal law to ensure defiance of State Supreme courts is no longer tolerated," Mr Dalla-Riva said.