Ballarat Council shuts down union rally

Industrial action at the Bupa Ballarat Aged Care home was cut short by the City of Ballarat because the group did not have a permit for their gathering. 

SHUT DOWN: A City of Ballarat local laws officer attended the industrial action at the Bupa Ballarat aged care home on Smythes Creek Road.

SHUT DOWN: A City of Ballarat local laws officer attended the industrial action at the Bupa Ballarat aged care home on Smythes Creek Road.

Members of the Australian Nursing and Midwifery Association Federation (ANMF) with support from the Ballarat Trades Hall had set up a marquee and barbecue as part of their stop-work action

However, members of the federation and Trades Hall say their rally was shut down by a City of Ballarat local laws officer shortly after 2pm today. 

City of Ballarat confirmed a local laws officer attended the site on Smythes Creek Road and ordered the barbecue be closed and marquee removed.

Ballarat organiser for the ANMF Allan Townsend said the action taken by City of Ballarat was "quite amazing."

"We were all set up then someone from City of Ballarat came along and said they had a complaint about us but wouldn't say what the complaint was about," he said. 

"We were questioned up about having a permit to be holding the event on council land."

The rally was part of industrial action taken by Bupa workers across the state in response to EBA negotiations that had broken down last week. 

Mr Townsend said the group were not charging for the barbecue and they were just providing lunch for their members and the workers at the aged care home. 

"This was a peaceful organised union rally in support of members," he said. 

"There was a barbecue but it was just sausage sizzle for the members coming out of their work that need something to eat."

He said there was some dispute about permit requirements with the local laws officer but the group were told to pack up their things. 

"We had a bit of argie bargie about a permit and they said in the absence of a permit we need to pack it all away."

"We said we'll be done in half an hour and they said to pack it away then and there."

Secretary of the ANMF Lisa Fitzpatrick said they expected someone to come and try to stop the rally and believes the complaint to council came from Bupa. 

"We did anticipate it because Bupa had indicated to one of our staff they would be contacting councils to prevent us from holding any activities on the footpath," she said. 

"While we saw this coming it's still a sad tactic and the first time in federation's history that it has happened."

Secretary of the Ballarat Trades Hall Brett Edgington was at the rally at the time and said it was the first time he had seen something like this. 

"It is the first time I have seen City of Ballarat intervene to shut down a picket line," he said.  

"They made the outlandish claim that anyone has to have permit if they are having a barbecue, even families at the lake have to have a permit."

Mr Townsend said he was surprised to have had the rally shut down and claims the group were not being disruptive.

"We have been having rallies and barbecues for many years in Ballarat," he said. 

"It's an unusual step for them to take and we are concerned about where that direction has come from and why they would chose to do that."

"We are also worried about what this means for members and unions trying to rally in the future." 

In a statement, City of Ballarat claimed they were unaware the barbecue was related to the industrial action and apologised for the order. 

"The City of Ballarat apologises for any distress caused to those workers or families supporting the legitimate industrial action," the statement read. 

"A permit is still required and the City of Ballarat is now working with the appropriate union representatives to issue a permit for this location." 

A spokesperson from Bupa said they were not involved with the decision to shut down the barbecue. 

“We respect our people’s choice to take part in union-led activity, as they have at a number of locations around Victoria today," the spokesperson said. 

"Any decision to close down a barbecue in a public place can only be made by local council.”