Penguin Random House Australia tries to silence union delegate

Contributed by Ugly

A Union delegate and editor at Penguin Random House has been given a first and final warning by management, because she posted a tweet expressing her support for staff at bookshops, such as Readings, where penalty rates were set to go on 1 July.

Beth Patch’s positive message of support happens to breech the conditions for allowable industrial action. This is the way management would have it, given that the definition is so broad. It goes to show showing bloody mindedness of the law under which fair Work Australia operates.

This was brought in by the Howard government. Unfortunately, subsequent Labor governments failed to do away with it, and the consequent Liberal-National Party governments have enthusiastically sought to push it further.

Beth’s case is one example of how this law is used as a weapon by employers to isolate and weaken the ability of employees to stand up for their rights. In this example, to be paid shift allowances for the work they do and be represented by a union.

Her tweet read:

“Staff from the publishing industry stand in solidarity with booksellers as they face penalty cuts from July 1st! The staff at bookshops such as Readings deserve penalty rates – this industry can’t survive without its workers and readers standing together!”

The Media Entertainment and Arts Alliance (MEAA) has organised a Megaphone petition, calling on Penguin Random House to withdraw what they consider to be an unreasonable warning. After all, Beth is a delegate, who has a duty to represent the interest of those who elected her.

It could be said that it is Penguin Random House that is taking unlawful industrial action. But there is no guarantee that the Fair work Commission will rush in to stop it. The track record is one where decisions have often been a one-sided application of the law. Only determination and enough pressure may sometimes brings out a different outcome.

It happens that at the time of Beth’s post, staff at the publishing company were trying to negotiate a new Enterprise Bargaining Agreement (EBA). The first time this has happened with representation by the union in the history of the book industry in Australia.

This is the real problem with Penguin Random House.

The MEAA is tasking the case to the Fair Work Commission. But is putting stress on delivering a strong message to the company and that they there is support of Australian workers.

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