Workers' leave revoked for protest day: leaked email

GLADSTONE construction giant Bechtel has been accused of cancelling employee leave to stop workers joining a protest rally aimed at protecting Australian jobs.

In a leaked email obtained by The Observer, the company's deputy site manager Rod Beach instructs supervisors that all employees are needed on site on Monday, August 17 to "get stuff done".

Mr Beach cancelled all rostered days off for August 17, other than regularly scheduled RDOs.

"All previous RDO requests that you have already approved for this day have since been unapproved by me," reads the email sent on Friday.

Despite the email, Bechtel general manager Kevin Berg said the company's approach to managing leave requests coinciding with the rally "remained the same as for other work days".

He urged employees to speak with their supervisors about leave requests.

LEAKED EMAIL: This email from a Bechtel deputy site manager has lead the ETU to file an application in the federal court.
LEAKED EMAIL: This email from a Bechtel deputy site manager has lead the ETU to file an application in the federal court.

One Bechtel worker, who asked not to be named, said revoking someone's leave showed Bechtel was exerting too much control.

He said he thought the company should support workers who wished to fight for Australian jobs.

AMWU Gladstone organiser Phil Golby said approved RDOs were usually only cancelled in an emergency situation.

"Workers will be asked to change their RDOs if there is an unexpected event, or during a shutdown, but this is not normal," Mr Golby said.

"If you are going to revoke someone's leave, it's usual to approach the employee, explain the reason and ask if those RDOs can be postponed to a later date.

>>ETU files in Federal Circuit Court against Bechtel, application successful 

"They've rejected all leave so that means anyone who has a sick day, whether they are sick or not, will be reprimanded."

Next Monday's rally against the Australia-China free trade agreement has been organised by five unions - AMWU, AMU, CFMEU, ETU and MUA.

The unions are concerned the free trade agreement puts Australian jobs at risk because it allows Chinese workers, including tradespeople, to work in Australia on temporary skilled migration visas.

The ETU has particular concerns for the electrical trade because the deal removes China from a list of nations requiring workers to sit a skills test for a 457 visa.

Federal Trade Minister Andrew Robb has dismissed these claims as "fear mongering".

A government factsheet about the agreement states it does not allow unrestricted access to the Australian labour market by Chinese workers, nor for employment laws to be undermined.

This includes paying foreign workers Australian wages.