CFMEU allegedly instigates unauthorised work stoppage at Melbourne site

Fair Work Building and Construction has commenced proceedings in the Federal Court alleging the CFMEU and two of its officials, Stephen Long and Gerard Benstead,  unlawfully disrupted work on a Melbourne apartment project.

It is alleged that on 21 April 2015, Mr Benstead entered the Brighton construction site and has a discussion with site management regarding amenities. Mr Benstead claimed that larger sheds were required for breaktimes and a separate dedicated portable toilet was required for the site’s sole female employee.

It is claimed that site management confirmed that the sheds were big enough for 18 workers when there were only 16 employed on site.  In relation to the female amenities, site management had consulted with both Worksafe and the female employee about the use of unisex facilities on site.

Despite this, it is alleged that during a return visit to the project the following day Mr Long and Mr Benstead held discussions with employees who then left the site and carried out no further work that day. Mr Long allegedly told site management the work stoppage was a result of their failure to comply with the CFMEU’s demands in relation to the site amenities.

FWBC alleges that the above behaviour constitutes coercion under the Fair Work Act 2009.  Under the Fair Work Act, each of these contraventions is liable to a maximum penalty of $51,000 for an organisation and $10,200 for an individual.

FWBC Director Nigel Hadgkiss said it is unlawful to stop the performance of productive building work in order to place illegitimate pressure on building contractors to agree to demands:

“If anyone is concerned that on-site facilities do not meet requirements they should pursue these concerns through the appropriate avenues. The rule of law must be followed in all facets of society, including on building sites. No-one is entitled to take the law in their own hands,” Mr Hadgkiss said.

A first directions hearing for the matter has been set down for 7 April 2016.

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