FWBC challenges CFMEU attempts to meet unwilling workers

The CFMEU and five of its officials are facing court following allegations they acted improperly by repeatedly refusing to respect the wishes of Perth workers who did not want to speak with union officials.

Fair Work Building and Construction has commenced proceedings in the Federal Court relating to two BGC sites in Perth. FWBC alleges that on five separate occasions between 28 January and 22 February 2016 CFMEU officials entered rooms that had been set aside for workers who did not want to attend union meetings.

The five officials are:

  • Peter Joshua
  • Douglas Heath
  • Troy Smart
  • Philip Kennedy
  • Brendan Kerkvliet

FWBC alleges that on each occasion, the CFMEU provided notice of its intention to enter BGC project sites for the purpose of holding discussions with workers during their break times. Upon receiving the notice, BGC made appropriate arrangements by designating one of its crib rooms (crib 1) as the location for the union meeting.

On each site, site management also ensured other rooms were available for workers who did not wish to meet with union officials during their breaks. Management placed notices in crib 1 and the other crib rooms (all of which were identical) to alert workers that union officials would be on site for discussions. Site management made it clear that if workers wished to meet with union officials they should utilise crib 1 during their break times.

Despite this, it is alleged that on each of the five occasions CFMEU officials accessed the sites, they refused to comply with directions to hold their discussions in Crib 1 and improperly entered the other crib rooms to attempt to meet with disinterested workers.

It is further alleged that on one occasion, Mr Heath and Mr Kerkvliet became aggressive when site management told them they did not have permission to enter the other crib rooms and began physically pushing management in order to gain access to the site.

FWBC Director Nigel Hadgkiss said that while union officials have a right to enter work premises to hold discussions with workers, they must respect the rights of workers who choose to use separate facilities rather than utilising facilities set aside for union discussions.

“In this case the employer took reasonable steps to ensure officials could meet with their members during their lunch breaks. However, officials do not have a right to force their way onto sites to eyeball every worker on that project.” Mr Hadgkiss said.

“The decision whether or not to meet with a union official is a decision that must be made by the worker. It is just as unlawful for union officials to force themselves upon workers as it is for employers to prevent workers from meeting with a union.”

The case has been listed in the Federal Court in Pert on a date to be fixed.

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