The Fair Work Commission will conduct a hearing in early February to decide if the national construction and maritime unions can merge, giving the federal government little time to block the new super union.
Fair Work Commission deputy president Val Gostencnik has released correspondence that says he proposes to schedule the matter for hearing on February 2 just days before the Senate resumes next year.
Members of the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU) and the Maritime Union of Australia (MUA) have voted in favour of amalgamating into a super union with about 144,000 members.
The new union will be made up of four divisions: mining, maritime, construction and manufacturing. The manufacturing division will include the Textile Clothing and Footwear Union of Australia (TCFU), a third party to the amalgamation.
The federal government has not yet indicated if the Fair Work (Registered Organisations) Amendment (Ensuring Integrity) Bill, which will block the merger, will be debated in the Senate before Parliament draws to a close this year.
A spokesman for Employment Minister Michaelia Cash on Tuesday said the government was hoping to get the bill through “as soon as possible noting the competing priorities in the Senate”.
Employer groups, including Master Builders Australia (MBA) and the Australian Mines and Metals Association (AMMA) strongly support the bill and are opposed to the merger.
Denita Wawn, chief executive of MBA, said the merger would have an adverse impact on the economy. She said MBA was considering all available legal options “to shine a light on the ramifications of a merger, including on the community and small business”.
AMMA workplace relations director Amanda Mansini has said the bill’s public interest test is needed in the face of “growing sector concerns that the stability of the supply chain, from pit to port, is at risk if the CFMEU/MUA merger is allowed to go ahead”.
Ms Mansini said it was unclear if any Fair Work Commission determination on the merger would be subject to Federal or High Court review.
BHP Minerals Australia president Mike Henry has said BHP doesn’t have “a particular view” about the merger and that the company will engage with whoever represents its employees.
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