Going on strike - be informed of the risks

You will lose pay for going on strike

If you take unprotected or unlawful industrial action you cannot be paid. Your employer must deduct at least 4 hours pay. Asking your employer to pay you for a period when you were on strike is unlawful. You can be fined for asking to be paid, and your employer can be fined for making the payment.

You can be fined for taking unlawful industrial action

The maximum penalty for taking unlawful industrial action is $42,000 for an individual. A court may also order you to pay compensation for damages suffered by others as a result of the action.

Legal strike action can only occur in limited circumstances

There are only three lawful reasons for taking industrial action:

  • You are in the process of trying to reach a new enterprise agreement with your employer and the industrial action is properly authorised by a protected action ballot.
  • You have a reasonable concern about an imminent risk to your health and safety and there is no alternative safe work available.
  • Your employer has authorised or agreed to the industrial action in advance and in writing.

You should ask the question, is this strike lawful? Simply voting to take strike action doesn’t make it legal.

"Protected industrial action" is not always protected

If you are taking "protected industrial action", you must ensure that only protected persons are involved in the industrial action. Protected persons are generally limited to those unions (and their officials), union members and employee representatives who are involved in the bargaining process.

A person who is not employed by your employer and is not a representative of a union involved in the bargaining process will not be a protected person.

If you engage in "protected industrial action" in concert with anyone who is not a protected person, or one of the organisers of the industrial action is not a protected person, it loses its "protected" character. This means that it could constitute unlawful industrial action and expose you to fines of up to $42,000 and liability to pay damages.

Going on strike is your decision

Your industrial instrument, such as an enterprise agreement or award, contains procedures for resolving disputes. These procedures must be followed to resolve any disagreements or disputes in the workplace.

It’s your choice whether you take industrial action or not. You are responsible for your decision, and will personally face any consequences of taking unlawful industrial action.

A person cannot force you to take industrial action if you do not want to. It is unlawful for a person to threaten to take action against you if you refuse to take part in a strike, or to take adverse action against you as a result of you not taking part in a strike.

Ask questions, get advice

Talk to your employer, site manager, the Australian Building and Construction Commission and your union. Make sure you get all the information you need before taking industrial action.

Some questions you should ask are:

  • Why is the strike being proposed?
  • Is there an imminent risk to health and safety if work continues?
  • Have you spoken to your employer about the issue?
  • Is a new enterprise agreement currently being negotiated?
  • Are people unconnected to the bargaining process getting involved in the strike action?

Download a print-friendly version of this fact sheet (PDF - 180K).

Need more information?

For further information, advice or assistance please contact the ABCC at 1800 003 338 or enquiry [at] abcc.gov.au.