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Morrison Government to give Registered Organisations flexibility to de-merge

Media Release

The Morrison Government will introduce legislation to give parts of registered organisations, which includes unions, greater ability to de-merge from their amalgamated organisation.

Attorney-General and Minister for Industrial Relations, Christian Porter, said the Fair Work (Registered Organisations) Act currently prevents parts of a registered organisation from de-merging five years after amalgamation.

"Freedom of association is a fundamental principle of Australia's industrial laws and this means that employees should have the right to associate in organisations according to their wishes," the Attorney-General said.

"A clear short-coming of the current law means that even if the performance or actions of one part of an amalgamated organisation fall beneath proper, lawful standards, and even if other members of the organisation who do the right thing do not believe it is in their best interests to stay attached, can't leave, even if the majority of members wish to.

"Within the union movement there are clear examples where the very poor conduct of one part of a union is impeding the ability of other divisions of the union to work effectively in the interests of their members.

"The Government's Bill, to be introduced next week, will fix this problem and put the destiny of those members of parts of registered organisations who are dissatisfied, back in their own hands."

The Fair Work (Registered Organisations) Amendment (Withdrawal from Amalgamations) Bill 2020 will be introduced next week, at the same time as the Government introduces its industrial relations omnibus reform bill.

The Bill will give the Fair Work Commission (FWC) the ability to approve an application for a ballot on the question of withdrawal from amalgamation afterthe usual five year period has elapsed, if it decides it is appropriate based on specified considerations.

"Let me very clear what this is about," the Attorney-General said.

"It means that decent, hard-working parts of an amalgamated union that are dissatisfied with the state of their union will have an opportunity to leave, if that is their wish and this Bill is passed by Parliament.

"Whilst registered organisations cover both employer and employee organisations, the appalling behaviour of the CFMMEU has driven some divisions within that organisation to consider their options.

"But de-merger is not an option available to them at the moment due to limitations legislated by the Fair Work (Registered Organisations) Act by Labor when it was in government.

"For example, divisions of the CFMMEU would, under these proposals, be able to apply to the FWC for a ballot of their members to decide whether to break away.

"If the FWC approves the ballot going ahead and it is successful, divisions of the CFMMEU could then formally withdraw from the CFMMEU and form their own, standalone union, taking their members and assets with them.

"The FWC would be required to consider a range of factors before approving an application. These include:

  • whether the amalgamated organisation has a record of not meeting the standards for registered organisations as set out in the Fair Work (Registered Organisations) Act 2009, and any contribution of the constituent part seeking to withdraw, to that record;
  • whether the amalgamated organisation has a record of not complying with workplace or safety laws and any contribution of the constituent part to that record; and
  • the likely capacity of the constituent part that forms a new organisation to promote and protect the economic and social interests of its members.

Where the FWC determines that organisation has a record of not complying with workplace and safety laws and that the record is not attributed to the division of the amalgamated organisation seeking to withdraw from the amalgamated organisation, the FWC must accept the application of the constituent part to hold a ballot to withdraw.

A review within two years of the Bill's commencement will consider whether the amendments are operating effectively.