ETU's application against Bechtel successful

6.15PM: WORKERS who applied for leave before 4pm today will have their request approved.

Bechtel reached an agreement today with the ETU in a federal court to allow any non-essential employees leave for Monday's union rally. 

More than 250 workers had submitted their applications before the deadline. 

There will be another hearing on Monday, August 24 to deal with the ETU's accusation Bechtel violated the Fair Work Act by revoking leave. 

Bechtel Gladstone general manager Kevin Berg said the company's normal approvals process for requests to take annual leave remained in place after agreement was reached with the union today.

"We understand our communication with respect to approval of leave could have been better in this instance on one of our projects, and we have agreed with the union to provide more clarity to employees on that project by providing a written confirmation to all those who have approval to take leave on August 17," Mr Berg said.

"Our approvals process is designed to keep the workplace staffed to meet our operational requirements.

"Our approach to managing leave requests remains the same as any other work day."

UPDATE NOON: The ETU's application against Bechtel will be heard in Brisbane at 2.30pm today. 

10.15AM: Despite requesting an urgent hearing in the federal court, a hearing date and time for the ETU's application against Bechtel is yet to be finalised.

A spokesman for the ETU said the union's lawyers expect the issue of leave to be heard today or tomorrow.

However, the application also includes examining whether or not Bechtel has contravened the Fair Work Act.

"Even though it will be after Monday's rally, we are hoping those more substantive aspects of this situation will be heard within the next two months," the spokesman said.

EARLIER: The Electrical Trade Union has filed a Federal Court application against construction giant Bechtel over a leaked email stating staff leave is revoked for the day of a union protest.

The national office of the ETU filed the application on Wednesday afternoon, and it is due to be heard in Brisbane on Thursday.

The email by Bechtel's deputy site manager Rod Beach details the company's cancellation of rostered days off for August 17 - the day of a union march in Gladstone against the Australia-China free trade agreement. 

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However, after being contacted about the court application, Bechtel general manager Kevin Berg said there was no blanket ban on leave.

He said leave was being approved as normal and the company would take steps in the next 24 hours "to clarify with employees".

The email reads: "In the best interests of the GLNG Project we do not sanction or authorise any such activity, require normal full attendance to get stuff done and accordingly any RDO or leave request for this day outside of those employees scheduled to take an RDO is to be denied."

ETU national secretary Allen Hicks said it would set a "dangerous precedent" if the email went unchallenged.

The union will seek to have revoked RDOs reinstated under the Fair Work Act.

"The company must not be allowed to prevent (the workers) from expressing their concerns," Mr Hicks said.

Monday's rally against the FTA has been organised by five unions - the AMWU, AWU, CFMEU, ETU and MUA. 

The ETU in particular has expressed concerns over the deal because it removes China from a list of nations requiring workers to sit a skills test before working in Australia. 

Those concerns have been refuted by the Federal Government with the Federal Trade Minister Andrew Robb labelling them as "fear mongering." 

A government fact sheet states the FTA does not allow Chinese workers unrestricted access to the labour market and that Australian employment laws would not be undermined - including paying foreign workers Australian wages. 

Editor's note 13/8: This story has been edited to correct the day the court application was filed. The ETU provided information saying the application was to be filed on Thursday, but that was incorrect.   



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