The ABCC has commenced Federal Court action against the CFMMEU and three of its officials alleging they targeted Newcastle crane company Wheeler Cranes because it did not have an enterprise agreement with the union.
The case is the third the ABCC has filed in recent months involving allegations the union has been targeting New South Wales crane companies to coerce them to sign up to CFMMEU enterprise agreements.
The ABCC is alleging CFMMEU officials Brendan Holl, Justin Hobson and Mikel Dacko organised and took part in unlawful pickets, contravened right of entry laws, and engaged in coercive conduct at three Newcastle building sites, including a high school and TAFE campus.
At the San Clemente High School and Newcastle TAFE sites it’s alleged up to 30 men wearing CFMMEU hoodies and waving banners picketed the sites and intimidated Wheeler Cranes’ workers.
While at the Kooragang Coal Terminal site police were called to attend when union officials refused to leave.
In its statement of claim filed in the Federal Court, the ABCC alleges:
- On 18 October 2018, Mr Holl, Mr Hobson and Mr Dacko and others blocked access to the Kooragang Coal Terminal. Mr Holl told site representatives the picketers would not leave until the Wheeler Cranes’ crane was removed from the site.
- Police were called to the site after the officials refused to leave. As a result of the officials’ conduct, Wheeler Cranes was unable to perform work that day.
- On 19 October 2018, at the San Clemente High School site, a group of about 30 men wearing CFMMEU branded clothing and chanting slogans assembled opposite the site, blocking private driveways and interrupting traffic. Mr Holl and Mr Hobson parked their car across the entrance preventing vehicles from entering or exiting the site.
- Mr Holl and Mr Hobson entered the San Clemente Site without any notice or warning to site management and approached the Wheeler Cranes’ crane while it was operating.
- When asked to sign the site visitors register and undergo a site induction, the following exchange occurred:
Holl: We don’t have to do sh*t, we’ve told you this before, we don’t sign sh*t. We’ve been inducted, our permit is our induction.
Site foreman: Come and speak in the office, so we’re in a safe area and not in the middle of the construction site.
Holl: No we’re not moving from the crane.
- A short time later the officials claimed they had safety concerns about the Wheeler Cranes’ crane. Despite all their concerns being addressed, Mr Holl and Mr Hobson continued to demand the crane be removed.
- On 19 October 2018, a group of about 30 men wearing CFMMEU branded clothing also gathered opposite the Newcastle TAFE site chanting CFMMEU slogans.
- At one stage Mr Holl approached site management and then shouted at a Wheeler Cranes’ crane driver in an aggressive manner “This is not your job!” Mr Holl and Mr Hobson prevented the crane from operating and refused to leave unless the crane was removed.
- As a result of the officials’ conduct, work on the site was stopped and delayed by a week.
- On 22 October 2018, groups of men wearing CFMMEU branded clothing assembled outside the gates of the Kooragang Coal Terminal site. A number of the picketers prevented a Wheeler Cranes mobile crane and a truck from entering the site.
- During a discussion with site management Mr Holl said “It’s going to get ugly today if Wheeler Cranes come on site”.
The ABCC alleges the conduct contravenes the coercion and right of entry provisions in the Fair Work Act 2009 and the unlawful picketing and coercion provisions in the Building and Construction Industry Improving Productivity Act 2016 (BCIIP Act).
The maximum penalty for each contravention of the Fair Work Act is $63,000 for a body corporate and $12,600 for an individual. The maximum penalty for each contravention of the BCIIP Act is $210,000 for a body corporate and $42,000 for an individual.