Geelong, Melbourne construction sites targeted in coordinated campaign

A Victorian construction company was the target of a coordinated industrial campaign after it enforced right-of-entry laws on its sites according to a claim lodged in the Federal Court by Fair Work Building and Construction.

FWBC alleges the CFMEU and 10 of its officials targeted eight sites across two cities over two days resulting in more than one hundred construction workers walking off the job.

The targeted sites covered nearly half a billion dollars’ worth of construction projects:

  • $115m Epworth Hospital (Richmond)
  • $115m Geelong Hospital
  • $25m Mercy Hospital (Sandringham)
  • $27m Owen Dixon Chambers (CBD)
  • $45m Aquanation (Ringwood)
  • $49m St John of God Hospital (Geelong)
  • $20m Aged care facility (Templestowe)
  • $38m Emporia Apartments (Prahran)
  • $45m Geelong Library

The CFMEU is alleged to have coordinated the simultaneous visits across multiple sites in 2014 on April 2 and May 22. When approached by site occupiers, the officials’ behavior is alleged to have included refusing to provide right-of-entry permits, organising stop-work meetings and/or organising for workers to leave the sites. Examples include:

  • At the BUPA site in Templestowe, where 25-30 workers attended a meeting and walked off the job, the site occupier allegedly said to CFMEU officer Lee McKenzie “what you have done is Illegal, l am going to have to report you” to which Mr McKenzie responded “I know it is illegal but I had to do it”.
  • At the Aquanation project in Ringwood, CFMEU official Michael Powell is alleged to have repeatedly refused to present a right-of-entry permit to the site occupier. Police were then called following Mr Powell’s refusal to leave the site at which point he allegedly also refused to comply with the Sergeant’s request to see a permit saying “I haven’t had one for six years and I’m not likely to get one” and “I can’t get a permit, I’ve been declared unfit to be a permit holder”.​

FWBC Director Nigel Hadgkiss said the allegations in this matter demonstrated a continued willingness and culture within the building and construction industry to break the law.

“The rule of law must be obeyed in all workplaces. In this case it is alleged that a contractor has been deliberately victimised for simply trying to ensure that the law is followed on its sites, this lack of respect and disregard for our nation’s workplace laws is completely unacceptable,” Mr Hadgkiss said.

A directions hearing has been scheduled for 29 April 2016. The officials facing court are:

  • Michael Powell
  • Stephen Long
  • Peter Booth
  • Derek Christopher
  • Bill Beattie
  • John Perkovic
  • Theo Theodorou
  • Brendan Murphy
  • Gerard Benstead
  • Joseph Myles
PDF icon Media release - Geelong, Melbourne construction sites targeted in coordinated campaign (PDF 45KB)