CFMEU & representatives allegedly broke law 822 times after sites shut down for 97 days

The CFMEU and 21 of its officers and agents allegedly shut down two major construction sites in Queensland for a combined 97 days, as part of a prolonged campaign to force the sites’ head contractors into signing an enterprise agreement. FWBC is subsequently alleging the CFMEU and its representatives broke the law 822 times.

The union allegedly repeatedly told the head contractors to sign the enterprise agreement and when CFMEU official Anthony Kong asked an operations manager for one of the head contractors: “Is it going to be fixed soon or am I going to be here for another one or two weeks?” the operations manager responded: “It’s hard to fix it with a gun pointed to your head”.

FWBC is alleging that work first stopped on 8 March 2013 at the $60 million Queensland University of Technology project, with CFMEU assistant state secretary Jade Ingham warning an operations manager for one of the head contractors: “this is just the start of it, the sooner you sign the agreement, the sooner it will stop”. A subsequent threat was made by CFMEU state secretary Michael Ravbar a few days later warning of the following day being “D Day” if the head contractors did not sign the enterprise agreement. 

A number of strikes took place at the Queensland University of Technology project, with a second site at the Enoggera army barracks also targeted. The $770 million project involves the redevelopment and construction of various Department of Defence facilities. FWBC alleges that strikes continued at both sites and stopped only when the head contractors signed the agreement. In documents filed with the Federal Court, it is alleged CFMEU representatives lead workers to down tools at various times, despite a Fair Work Commission order that came into effect on 29 October 2013, preventing the CFMEU from organising industrial action at the sites.

After the Fair Work Commission orders were put in place, an operations manager for one of the head contractors asked a group of workers if the consequences of breaching the order had been explained to them. One worker allegedly replied “We don’t want to go. We voted to stay, but when you join the union, you’re in the union”. Another worker apologised to a foreman while leaving the site, saying “sorry, we’ve got no choice,” after he asked him asked what was going on and why he was leaving.

A group of men including officers and agents of the CFMEU also allegedly stood in front of a vehicle, screaming at them to “f**k off,” when they tried to enter the QUT project. One day in November, at the Enoggera project, Mr Ingham was allegedly addressing a crowd of workers asking them who was going to strike. When workers expressed an interest in returning to work and voted to that effect, Mr Ingham said “Look, I’m running this meeting, keep quiet”.

In a meeting held to discuss the proposed enterprise agreement, on 14 December, the operations manager was allegedly advised that “If we can’t reach agreement, there won’t be any work until January.” On about 14 December one of the head contractors and the CFMEU made an in principle agreement to enter into an agreement. On 3 February 2014 an agreement between one of the head contractors and the CFMEU that applied to QLD and the NT was approved by the Fair Work Commission.

It is alleged industrial action affected the Queensland University of Technology site on 48 days and the Enoggera site on 49 days.

FWBC Director Nigel Hadgkiss said that it was in the public’s best interest to take this matter to the courts. “All building and construction industry participants should have the right to work. Reports of workers being told to be quiet when they express an interest in going to work are extremely concerning”.

FWBC is alleging that the CFMEU and the 21 CFMEU officers and agents broke the law a combined 822 times. The maximum penalties available to the Court in this case are $10,200 for an individual, and $51,000 for a union per breach. More information, including a full list of respondents, can be found in the media backgrounder.

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