March - April 2016 Industry Update

Court summary - New cases

FWBC’s busy start to the year continued into March and April, with the agency initiating proceedings against respondents in 9 matters.

Landscaping firm, CFMEU alleged to have discriminated against subcontractor (7 March 2016)

  • Landscaping firm Dig-It and the CFMEU are facing court over allegations that they unlawfully discriminated against a waterproofing company because it did not have a union EBA.
  • It is alleged that CFMEU official Kurt Pauls approached a worker from the waterproofing company and said he was not allowed on the site as the company did not have an EBA with the CFMEU.
  • When the waterproofing company’s state manager raised the issue with Dig-It’s project manager, David Mercer, it is alleged that Mr Mercer told the company that their lack of a union EBA was a problem which, if not fixed, meant their contract would be terminated.
  • FWBC claims that the following day Mr Mercer sent an email with an attached letter, terminating the waterproofing company’s contract.
  • FWBC Director Nigel Hadgkiss said “It is unlawful to discriminate against subcontractors and their workers based on the enterprise agreement they choose to enter into. Under the Fair Work Act (2009) there is no such thing as ‘no ticket, no start’ or a ‘union EBA project’.”

FWBC challenges CFMEU attempts to meet unwilling workers (7 March 2016)

  • FWBC has lodged a claim against the CFMEU and five of its officials following allegations they acted improperly by repeatedly refusing to respect the wishes of workers who did not wish to speak with union officials at two BGC sites in Perth.
  • It is alleged that when visiting the sites to hold discussions with workers, the union officials refused to comply with directions to hold their discussions in a designated crib room, instead improperly entering other crib rooms to attempt to meet with disinterested workers.
  • FWBC further claims that on one occasion two of the officials became aggressive 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 not to meet with a union official.

Victorian union organiser facing multiple claims in Federal Court (10 March 2016)

  • Victorian CFMEU official Joseph Myles is facing court after allegedly repeatedly breaching workplace laws at the Springvale Level Crossing Removal between 19 June 2013 and 1 April 2014.
  • FWBC claims that Mr Myles contravened multiple sections of the Fair Work Act, including by allegedly threatening to orchestrate blockades of the site if the head contractor engaged a particular subcontractor on site; organising unauthorised work bans on two occasions; refusing to produce a right-of-entry permit after entering the site; and twice entering the site without holding a current right-of-entry permit.
  • FWBC Director Nigel Hadgkiss described the allegations as reflecting a sustained pattern of behaviour involving repeat contraventions of the Fair Work Act.

CFMEU allegedly instigates unauthorised work stoppage at Melbourne site (10 March 2016)

  • FWBC has commenced proceedings against the CFMEU and two of its officials for allegedly instigating an unauthorised work stoppage at a Melbourne apartment project.
  • It is claimed that the officials had a discussion with site management and requested additional amenities, including a larger shed for breaktimes and a separate portable toilet for the site’s sole female employee.
  • When the requests were turned down by site management, who confirmed that the existing amenities met workers’ requirements, the officials the next day held discussion with employees, who then left the site and carried out no further work that day.
  • FWBC Director Nigel Hadgkiss said it is unlawful to stop work in order to place illegitimate pressure on building contractors to agree to demands, stating that any concerns about on-site facilities should be pursued through the appropriate avenues.

CFMEU tries to coerce contractor by allegedly forcing disruptions on NSW building sites (17 March 2016)

  • The CFMEU and thirteen of its officials, including NSW State Secretary Brian Parker, are facing court over allegations they attempted to force a contractor to sign up to a CFMEU pattern enterprise agreement.
  • It is alleged that CFMEU official Darren Taylor told a group of building contractors that if they didn’t sign the EBA the union would pick one of them and “smash” their jobs as a warning to other contractors.
  • FWBC claims that the CFMEU then targeted three BKH sites, engaging in multiple attempts to disrupt and delay the projects including by disrupting a concrete pour at the Rhodes site, parking a vehicle across the entrance to the site to obstruct concrete trucks, and blockading and closing gates at the Wolli Creek site.
  • FWBC Director Nigel Hadgkiss said building industry participants must be able to make decisions about their enterprise agreements without being coerced by any party.

CFMEU facing court over improper behaviour at Bendigo Theatre Project (30 March 2016)

  • The CFMEU and two of its officials have been put before the court after allegedly contravening right-of-entry laws at a Bendigo construction site.
  • FWBC claims that CFMEU official Nigel Davies accessed the Bendigo Theatre project construction site on two occasions without providing the required 24 hours’ notice, and refusing when asked to produce his right-of-entry permit. Mr Davies allegedly returned to the site a third time together with a second union official, Alex Tadic, who verbally abused the project manager when asked what he was doing there.
  • FWBC Director Nigel Hadgkiss said that the right-of-entry regime allows unions to play their important role in ensuring safety in the workplace, and that “Obtaining access to a construction site should therefore be treated seriously and not used as an opportunity to pursue other agendas or subject people to obscene language, abuse and intimidating behaviour.”

Geelong, Melbourne construction sites targeted in coordinated campaign (4 April 2016)

  • The CFMEU and 10 of its officials are facing court after allegedly undertaking a coordinated industrial campaign against a Victorian construction company after the company enforced right-of-entry laws on its sites.
  • FWBC alleges the CFMEU coordinated simultaneous visit across multiple sites, covering nearly half a billion dollars’ worth of construction projects, resulting in more than one hundred construction workers walking off the job.
  • The officials’ behaviour 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.
  • FWBC Director Nigel Hadgkiss said “this lack of respect and disregard for our nation’s workplace laws is completely unacceptable.”

CFMEU in court for allegedly shutting Barangaroo site (6 April 2016)

  • The NSW Branch of the CFMEU and ten of its officials, including State Secretary Brian Parker, are facing court over allegations of unlawful industrial action orchestrated in support of a CFMEU delegate who pushed and verbally abused a Lend Lease worker.
  • It is alleged that CFMEU delegate Peter Genovese threatened a Lend Lease worker at the Barangaroo project site before grabbing and attempting to punch him. After an investigation into the incident, Mr Genovese was stood down from the project on full pay.
  • FWBC alleges that following the investigation, CFMEU officials blockaded the site and directed workers to attend a meeting where a vote was called in favour of a strike in support of Mr Genovese being reinstated to the project. The majority of the approximately 1000 workers went on strike.
  • FWBC further alleges that those workers who did not wish to go on strike were verbally abused by union officials when they tried to re-enter the site. Two FWBC inspectors who were monitoring the situation were also allegedly abused.
  • FWBC Director Nigel Hadgkiss said “It is of grave concern that we continue to see multiple examples of this type of behaviour in the industry.”

CFMEU allegedly threatens multiple Melbourne subcontractors with black-bans (18 April 2016)

  • FWBC has launched proceedings against the CFMEU and three of its officials after they allegedly threatened to “black-ban” numerous subcontractors at a Melbourne construction site after the head contractor engaged a traffic management firm who did not have a union EBA.
  • It is alleged that the officials warned several subcontractors against performing any work at the site, saying to one “It is in your best interests to pack up and leave”. As a result of the threats, some subcontractors did not carry out the work that was scheduled to take place.
  • FWBC Director Nigel Hadgkiss said threats made against subcontractors designed to instil fear of being shut out of the industry would not be tolerated.
  • A directions hearing was held on 29 April.

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