CFMEU targeted company with deliberate and coordinated campaign, FWBC alleges

The CFMEU and four of its officials, including Queensland State Secretary Michael Ravbar and the then Assistant State Secretary Peter Close, are facing Federal Court action for allegedly undertaking a targeted and coordinated operation to disrupt the work of a crane company on multiple sites because it refused to sign up to a CFMEU enterprise agreement. 

FWBC alleges in the Federal Court that:

  • During 2012, regular meetings of CFMEU organisers were held, usually led by Mr Ravbar and Mr Close. A standing agenda item at these meetings was discussion of the need for building contractors to have a CFMEU pattern agreement. Mr Ravbar and Mr Close would identify contractors that were not agreeable to signing the agreement and coordinate attempts by organisers to stop those contractors from working. The crane company, which did not have a CFMEU agreement at the time, was discussed at a number of these meetings.
  • At an organisers meeting around July 2012, Mr Ravbar and Mr Close directed officials to attend the Legacy Way project where the crane company was performing work and stop its crane from working.
  • On one occasion a CFMEU organiser attended the site and told the site supervisor “you need to get this crane off this job” and “well it needs to go. [The crane company] is a ‘non-EBA company’”. On another visit, CFMEU officials physically blocked the crane from working and said to a site supervisor “we’re here to hold the crane. It has to go” and “you know what will happen if it is not moved, we’ll just stay here until it is”. The cranes were prevented from performing scheduled work on both days.
  • At another organisers meeting, Mr Ravbar and Mr Close noted the crane company was not cooperating with the CFMEU and the union needed to up the campaign until the company was prepared to “play ball”.
  • A CFMEU official subsequently attended the Port Connect project where the crane company was working. He said to the construction manager at the project:

“…there’s a dispute going on at the moment with [the crane company]. We are having dramas with them. It’d probably be in the interests of your job over here to use an alternative crane company because it’s going to get nasty.  You’re going to get a lot of union activity on your job, so I recommend you get rid of them and bring someone else in” and “well mate if you don’t get it sorted, I’ll keep coming back and there will be stoppages. It’ll just be easier if you get rid of them”.

  • At another organisers meeting Mr Ravbar noted that he had observed one of the company’s cranes still operating at the Port Connect site and told a CFMEU organiser to take another organiser with him and go to that site to stop the crane. The two CFMEU officials agreed in advance that they would attend the site the next morning and try to identify a safety issue with the crane they could rely upon to disrupt its use. The next day, after performing the safety audit, the officials told the construction manager the crane had to go, saying “Look this is nothing personal, it’s not against you, it’s against [the crane company].
  • In another exchange, Mr Close told the crane company’s director that unless they entered into the CFMEU agreement, the company “will not work on CFMEU controlled sites”. Mr Close said “We know you are on your knees. We will keep going until you sign.”
  • In August 2012, Mr Ravbar met with the company director and told him the CFMEU would continue to target them and make it very hard for them to operate if it did not agree to the CFMEU pattern agreement.
  • At that time, the crane company had not agreed to sign a CFMEU agreement. Around October 2012, at an organisers meeting, Mr Ravbar directed organisers to go to the crane company’s yard, park around the corner from the yard, follow the cranes as they leave and then stop the cranes from operating once the cranes arrive at their destination.
  • At dawn the following day, a number of officials attended the company’s yard. Two CFMEU officials followed a crane from the yard to the Port Connect project. Once there, the officials parked their vehicles directly behind the crane and it could not operate, stopping work in the area.
  • A Port Connect construction manager was told that as long as that crane company was used, there would be stoppages and disruptions for the site.  The official said, “well we’re blocking the crane and it ain’t going anywhere.  We told you what would happen.  You need to get rid of them and we can recommend some other crane companies that you can use”.  The CFMEU official then handed over a document listing “approved CFMEU crane contractors” and said “to keep your project going use one of these companies”.

FWBC Director Nigel Hadgkiss said that the brazen and calculated nature of the alleged conduct was of grave concern and reflected a serious disregard for workplace laws.

 “These are extremely serious allegations which point to a deliberate and coordinated strategy adopted by the CFMEU, including its senior officials, of targeting companies with damaging work stoppages to coerce them into signing union agreements,” Mr Hadgkiss said.

“Conduct of the type alleged above is hugely costly not only to the companies involved, but also the productivity of the industry as a whole.  It is unacceptable that a contractor be targeted with adverse action for simply seeking to make an agreement directly with its workers.”

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