What is coercion?
Coercion is the act of organising or taking action, or threatening to organise or take action against someone with the intent to influence that person or another person to do something. Coercion interferes with a person's freedom of choice.
It's unlawful for an employer, fellow employee or a union to coerce an employee to exercise, or not exercise, their workplace rights.
What are workplace rights?
Workplace rights are protections for people in the workplace. The protections come from workplace laws. As an employee, you have a workplace right when you are:
- entitled to the benefit of a workplace law or workplace instrument (such as an award or agreement) or an order made by an industrial body
- able to participate in a process or proceedings under a workplace law or workplace instrument
- able to make a complaint or enquiry in relation to your employment.
Can an employer take away a workplace right?
An employer must not threaten or take any action with the intent to coerce an employee to exercise or not exercise a workplace right, or to exercise that right in a particular way.
For example, if an employee refuses to vote for or against an enterprise agreement, the employer must not:
- threaten to sack the employee
- threaten to demote the employee or change their roster.
What else constitutes unlawful coercion?
It is against the law to organise or take action or threaten to organise or take action against another person with the intent to coerce that person to:
- make, vary or terminate an enterprise agreement
- take part in industrial action
- employ or not employ a building employee
- engage or not engage a building contractor
- allocate or not allocate certain duties or responsibilities to a particular building employee or building contractor
- designate a building employee or contractor as having, or not having, particular duties or responsibilities
- nominate a particular superannuation fund.
Sofia runs a small-sized crane company. She provides services to builders across a number of commercial projects. Recently, Sofia has been receiving pressure to enter into a union-based Enterprise Agreement (EA). A union official has told Sofia that if she does not sign the EA, they will have her crane company removed from every site and she will not receive any more work. Sofia cannot afford to lose this work and feels that she has no choice but to sign the EA.
It is unlawful for a person to organise or take action, or threaten to organise or take action against another person with the intent to coerce that person to make, vary or terminate an enterprise agreement. In this circumstance, Sofia may be the victim of coercion and should contact the ABCC.