January - February 2016 Industry Update

Court summary - New cases

The first two months of the New Year has been a busy time for FWBC with the agency initiating a large number of new proceedings in the courts.

In January and February respondents in eight matters were served with notices to appear in claims initiated by the agency.

CEPU and union official in court for allegedly threatening Bendigo Contractor (29 January 2016)

  • FWBC has filed a case against the CEPU and one of its officials, Neil O’Brien, following allegations they threatened a Bendigo plumbing company that it would be shut out of future projects if it did not sign the union’s EBA.
  • FWBC allege that during discussions relating to an enterprise agreement for the Bendigo Hospital project, Mr O’Brien told the Director of the plumbing company that the union would make it unviable for head contractors to engage the plumbing firm on future projects if it did not agree to the union’s EBA.
  • FWBC Acting Director Brian Corney said using threats to coerce a company to sign an enterprise agreement was unlawful under the Fair Work Act 2009.  A directions hearing is listed for 11 March 2016

CFMEU official faces court after allegedly hindering safety inspector (3 February 2016)

  • A Victorian CFMEU official is facing Federal Court action after allegedly intentionally hindering a WorkSafe Victoria inspector on a construction site in Castlemaine.
  • FWBC claims Alex Tadic of the CFMEU hindered a WorkSafe inspector from conducting their duties and became rude, angry and aggressive when the inspector did not comply with his demands that the site be shut down.
  • FWBC Director Nigel Hadgkiss said it was disappointing that yet again, some union officials misuse safety to pursue industrial agendas.
  • FWBC would not have been able to get this matter to court without the use of its compulsory powers.  A case management hearing was held on February 3.

Former CFMEU QLD President David Hanna in court for giving building site managers a spray (4 February 2016)

  • Former Queensland CFMEU President David Hanna is facing court action for breaching right-of-entry laws and getting into an altercation with site managers at a Fortitude Valley construction site.
  • FWBC alleges that when site managers asked Mr Hanna to provide his right-of-entry permits he raised his middle finger and said he did not need permits, escalating until he sprayed water over one of the site managers. He is also alleged to have threatened the site manager saying: “Take that phone away or I’ll f*cking bury it down your throat”.
  • FWBC Director Nigel Hadgkiss said the rule of law must be followed on construction sites.  A directions hearing was held on March 7.

Claims of physical confrontation and industrial threats land SA union officials in Court (12 February 2016)

  • Three CFMEU officials, including South Australian assistant secretary Michael McDermott, are facing Federal Court action following incidents that allegedly occurred on an Adelaide building site late in 2015 where they allegedly threatening to shut down the South Terrace construction site.
  • FWBC alleges that the confrontation escalated to a point where Mr Gava physically remonstrated with the site manager, pushing him into a fence and damaging his wristwatch. 
  • FWBC Director Nigel Hadgkiss said threats and physical violence must be stamped out of the construction industry.  “Threats, abuse and physical altercations are unacceptable in any workplace and the construction industry is no different. Unfortunately we are seeing a number of cases involving this type of behaviour,” Mr Hadgkiss said. A directions hearing has been set for 24 March 2016.

CFMEU allegedly blockades sites, abuses workers after EBA dispute (21 February 2016)

  • Thirteen NSW CFMEU officials, including National Secretary Michael O’Conner and State Secretary Brian Parker, are alleged to have run an orchestrated campaign of unlawful blockades and work disruptions targeting a Sydney concrete pumping firm.
  • FWBC claims the union prevented subcontractors engaged by the concrete pumping firm from entering the Barangaroo project site. Workers who tried to enter the site were allegedly called “f*cking scabs” and “filthy dogs”.
  • FWBC director Nigel Hadgkiss said workers should be allowed to attend their jobs without being abused, heckled or intimidated.
  • FWBC Director Nigel Hadgkiss said: “It is unjustifiable for a worker to be subjected to insults and abuse for simply trying to do their job. We would not tolerate this behaviour in the school yard and we certainly should not have to tolerate it in the workplace,”
  • A directions hearing has been set for 9 March 2016.

FWBC takes building company to court on adverse action against subcontractor (23 February 2016)

  • FWBC alleges that Forest Meiers Construction (FMC) and three of its officers took adverse action and discriminating against a tiling subcontractor for not having an agreement with the CFMEU.
  • FWBC claims the tiling company had an existing enterprise agreement, however FMC said it would prefer the company have a union EBA and suggested the tiling firm form a new company so that it would be able to enter into a new EBA.
  • It is alleged that the tiling company’s new entity was unable to secure an EBA with the CFMEU so FMC subsequently chose to cancel its agreement with the tiling firm and engage a rival company who was less experiences and more expensive.
  • FWBC Director Nigel Hadgkiss said: “Sub-contractors are small to medium enterprises. It is unlawful for their livelihood and the livelihoods of their workers to be put at risk just because their legally-recognised enterprise agreement is not endorsed by a particular union or industry organisation”.
  • A directions hearing is listed for 21 March 2016.

Major building firm in court for allegedly discriminating against subcontractor (25 February 2016)

  • FWBC has lodged a claim against Hutchinson Builders and two of its officers over allegations they unlawfully discriminated against a tiling firm in Queensland because the tiling firm did not have an EBA with the CFMEU.
  • It is alleged the tiling firm provided a quote for work on the Circa One project at Nundah and during a series of subsequent exchanges with Hutchinson it was agreed the tiling company would begin working onsite the week beginning 22 October 2012.
  • However, during that week Hutchinson allegedly cancelled the agreement when it became aware the tiling company did not have a CFMEU EBA.
  • FWBC Director Nigel Hadgkiss said: “Subcontractors and their employees are free to enter into whatever enterprise agreement they choose. It is unacceptable for their livelihoods to be put at risk because large building firms agree to unlawful practices such as ‘no ticket, no start’ or ‘union EBA only project”.
  • A directions hearing has been scheduled for 21 March

Dave Hanna allegedly seeks secret side deal with company to end industrial action (26 February 2016)

  • The CFMEU and former Queensland President David Hanna are facing the Federal Circuit Court over allegations they threatened to defy a return to work order from the Fair Work Commission unless a construction firm agreed to sign a Deed.
  • FWBC claims Mr Hanna and the CFMEU were engaged in unprotected industrial action at the Brooklyn on Brookes Apartments project in Fortitude Valley for a period of nine days in April 2014.
  • FWBC alleges that Mr Hanna told the construction firm that the unprotected action would continue, in spite of the FWC’s order, unless the firm agreed to drop all its claims against the union, agree not to pursue any future claims, reinstate a former union site delegate and keep all elements of the deal secret.
  • FWBC director Nigel Hadgkiss said all building industry participants must comply with the law, including orders issued by the Fair Work Commission.
  • A directions hearing has been set for 21 March 2016.

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