Protected action ballots

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When is a protected action ballot required?

A protected action ballot (also known as a secret ballot) must be undertaken before industrial action can be lawfully taken.

What has to occur for a protected action ballot to be conducted?

A ballot for protected industrial action must first be ordered by the Australian Industrial Relations Commission (AIRC). An application for this type of order will normally be dealt with by the AIRC within two working days.

In considering whether or not to order a protected action ballot, the AIRC must be satisfied that the union or employees seeking the ballot:

If the AIRC grants the application the order will include details of the types of employees who are to be balloted, the voting method, who is to conduct the ballot, the timetable for the ballot and the questions to be put. In general, postal ballots will be ordered unless the AIRC is satisfied that another voting method would be quicker and more efficient.

When is a ballot successful?

Industrial action is authorised by a ballot if:

Can I be reimbursed for the cost of holding a ballot?

An applicant for a protected action ballot, who uses an authorised ballot agent other than the Australian Electoral Commission (AEC), is liable for the cost of holding the ballot, whether or not the ballot is completed. The Commonwealth, however, will pay an authorised ballot agent 80% of the costs determined by the Industrial Registrar to be 'reasonably and genuinely' incurred in holding the ballot.

Ballot results

Under section 479 of the Workplace Relations Act 1996 the Industrial Registrar must, in relation to each protected action ballot that has been held, keep a record of the results of the ballot declared by the authorised ballot agent.

The Industrial Registrar must publish the declaration of the results, as soon as practicable, after being informed of the results of the secret ballot, by the authorised ballot agent.