The ABCC has commenced proceedings in the Federal Court against the AWU and two of its officials alleging they organised a three-day strike at a steel manufacturer for major construction projects in Melbourne late last year.
AWU officials Craig Kelly and Ian Robertson are alleged to have organised unlawful industrial action on 23 and 31 October 2018 and 1 November 2018 involving 53 employees.
The ABCC further alleges 53 employees engaged in unlawful industrial action over a three day period.
The employees were engaged by OneSteel Reinforcing at its Noble Park premises in the manufacturing of made-to-order prefabricated components and other steel reinforcing products.
In its statement of claim, the ABCC is alleging:
- Shortly before 23 October 2018, Mr Kelly and Mr Robertson spoke to employees who were AWU members about attending a rally. Following the address employees did not attend work across a number of shifts on 23 October 2018.
- On 24 October 2018, the employer began to hold meetings with employees about their absence from work on the previous day.
- During a meeting on 31 October 2018, Mr Kelly addressed employees in the lunchroom and encouraged them to take industrial action because of his disapproval of their employer conducting meetings with the employees who did not attend work on 23 October 2018. The dayshift employees subsequently left the site.
- Later that day, Mr Kelly met with representatives of the employer and told them the afternoon shift employees would not continue working unless the dayshift employees were paid and the meetings with employees stopped.
- At the meeting Mr Kelly also said words to the effect: “if there’s anyone you should be going after it’s me, I organised it all”.
- Mr Kelly made two additional demands for strike pay after the meeting when he said:
“pay the dayshift guys for their shift [when they were on strike] and call it off and then the afternoon shift will go back to work as normal”; and
“pay the dayshift guys for their shift [when they were on strike], back off the investigation and the guys will go back to work”
- As a result on 31 October 2018, each of the afternoon shift employees did not attend work from about 3.45pm till 11.30pm. The night shift employees also did not attend work on the day.
- On 1 November 2018 dayshift employees did not commence work until the Fair Work Commission made an order that the employees stop taking industrial action.
The ABCC is alleging the conduct in this case contravenes the unlawful industrial action provisions in the Building and Construction Industry (Improving Productivity) Act 2016 and strike pay provisions in the Fair Work Act 2009.
The maximum penalty per contravention in this case is $210,000 for a body corporate and $42,000 for an individual.