Global Climate Strike

13 September 2019

The Global Climate Strike has been called for 20 September. What does this mean for architectural employers? The ACA provides advice about how to best manage this under the Fair Work Act. 

Next Friday, 20 September, a strike has been called across the nation to highlight concern about the state of the world’s climate under the banner ‘Global Climate Strike’. In the context of the recent declaration ‘Australian Architects Declare a Climate and Biodiversity Emergency’, which has been widely supported by hundreds of architectural practices across Australia, the issue of climate change has been a significant topic of conversation within the profession. Further, the Australian Institute of Architects has recently endorsed both the declaration as well as the separate but related ‘Global Climate Strike’. 

There is much empathy for environmental issues across the ranks of employers and employees, however the potential of employees striking to observe this call has created the question of how it should be properly addressed by employers. The right to strike is an internationally recognised human right. The United Nations’ International Covenant on Economic (FWO), Social and Cultural Rights of 1966 requires Governments to ensure that workers have a right to strike. The Australian Federal Government ratified the Covenant in December 1975, but our laws are different to the convention.  Under our laws, strikes can only happen during bargaining (as defined under the covenant) between employers and employees and at all other times they are unlawful.  Friday’s proposed strike cannot be considered to be part of such a bargaining process.

It is up to the leaders of each business to consider how to manage this issue and to make their own decisions, but should employees wish to attend the climate protest it should be understood that Section 470 of The Fair Work Act 2009 makes it illegal for an employer to pay an employee to take industrial action. In this context, and should employees wish to participate in this strike, it is advisable that employers arrange for their employees to take leave to facilitate attendance, either as paid leave, unpaid leave or alternatively arrange for time off in-lieu. With the architectural profession’s focus on our physical environment, it is anticipated that there will be considerable interest in the event and this memorandum is intended to assist employers in understanding their obligations in addressing that interest.