fight_fists_faceIn October 2013, Deputy President Asbury of the Fair Work Commission approved an agreement covering the Teys Beenleigh plant.

The Union opposed the approval of the agreement. Teys staff were solely responsible for drawing up the roll of voters and did not consult with the Union about it.

Included in the vote were a number of trainee supervisors and other persons who were not, in the Union’s view, entitled to vote on the agreement. The amount of non-eligible voters clearly could have affected the result.

The Union appealed the decision of Deputy President Asbury to a Full Bench of the Fair Work Commission. The Full Bench allowed the Union’s appeal in March 2014, mainly on the proper construction of the legislation that had to be applied to determine voter eligibility. While both the Union and Teys legal representatives urged the Full Bench to decide the question of whether the voters in question were eligible, they declined to, instead referring the matter back to Deputy President Asbury to re-determine and directing her to apply the correct principles.

It came as no surprise to us that upon this re-determination, in April 2014, Deputy President Asbury once again decided the voters in question were entitled to vote on the agreement.

So, once again, the Union has lodged an appeal against the approval of this agreement! This appeal will be heard in June 2014.

Running parallel to these developments is an interesting question: during the time between October 2013 when Deputy President Asbury approved the 2013 agreement up the agreement was quashed in April 2014, what agreement applied?

Somewhat curiously, Teys legal representatives say that even though the 2013 agreement was invalidly approved, it still operated with force and effect during this time. Unsurprisingly, the Union disagrees. To resolve the matter, the Union has filed an application in the Federal Circuit Court (which was served on the company recently) to have this issue determined once and for all.

So this is the report and chronology, but what is this dispute really about?

The Union sees Teys Australia Beenleigh Pty Ltd as doing no more than fighting for what it sees as its rights to rig ballots, reduce workers conditions and bully and threaten a workforce with the closure of a plant to intimidate them into accepting the company’s will.

The Union’s fight is about upholding democracy. Only those people who will be affected by the approval of an agreement have a right to vote on that agreement.

It’s also a fight about corporate lies and the truth. To date, Teys Australia Beenleigh Pty Ltd hasn’t filed their 2013 financial accounts. However, what we can say for sure about the state of the industry based on fact is:

  • In March 2014, a new record was set for export revenues from beef – a whopping $632 million in one month (source: ABS statistics Cat 5368.0).
  • Over the 12 months to March 2014, Australian beef processors have raked in a whopping $6.1 Billion in revenue from the export of beef (source: ABS statistics Cat 5368.0).
  • In 2014, China is expected to now overtake Korea as Australia’s third largest importers of beef (Source: Meat and Livestock Australia, Australian Cattle Industry Projections 2014).
  • Whilst exports of beef are predicted to ease slightly in 2014 (by 7.3%), Australia will once again export in excess of 1 million tonnes of beef in 2014 (Source: Meat and Livestock Australia, Australian Cattle Industry Projections 2014).

So we look forward to seeing those 2013 accounts of Teys Australia Beenleigh Pty Ltd. Miraculous, isn’t it, how a plant that was allegedly on the brink of closure seems to have acquired a new lease of life all of a sudden?

We should all keep this in mind in the future when they are spinning another yarn.