January 2013 Industry Update

Update on CFMEU-Grocon dispute proceedings in Vic

Most people in the building and construction industry will recall the unsettling images of the industrial dispute between the CFMEU and Grocon in late August and early September last year.

Alleged misconduct by the union and some of its leaders took place at several Grocon building sites in Victoria including the Myer Emporium site in Melbourne and the McNab Avenue site in Footscray.

Fair Work Building Industry Inspectors were on the scene, gathering evidence and information, from day one of the dispute.  Following an exhaustive investigation and legal preparation, FWBC filed Federal Court proceedings within seven weeks against the CFMEU and ten officials.

Work on the case has continued at full pace since we filed it on 5 October 2012. Here is the latest information and developments.

Amended allegations and respondents

On 14 December 2012, FWBC filed amended pleadings, alleging new instances of conduct by the CFMEU and its officials.

The amendments discontinued the case against CFMEU shop stewards Nick Salta and David Lythgo but otherwise maintained and refined the allegations against John Setka, Shaun Reardon, Derek Christopher, Elias Spernovasilis, Bill Oliver, and Craig Johnston.

As amended, the pleadings now include allegations of coercion involving CFMEU flyers, website articles, media conferences and addresses to the crowd which allegedly included comments like “lay siege to Grocon” and “hold the line”.

Unsuccessful CFMEU stay application

There are two separate court proceedings relating to the Grocon-CFMEU dispute. Grocon filed one in the Supreme Court and FWBC commenced one in the Federal Court. The CFMEU and its officials are respondents to both proceedings.

On 20 November 2012, the CFMEU unsuccessfully applied to the Supreme Court for a stay of Grocon’s proceedings.

At the hearing, the CFMEU argued that to defend Supreme Court proceedings at the same time as it defended Federal Court proceedings exposed it to a real risk of injustice.

The judge refused to grant the stay and ordered the CFMEU to pay Grocon’s costs of the hearing of the matter.

The outcome is that FWBC and Grocon’s separate proceedings remain on foot in different courts.

It is likely that the Federal Court proceedings will be heard before the Supreme Court proceedings.

Charges of contempt of court against the CFMEU in Grocon’s proceedings are under consideration by the Supreme Court. Delivery of judgment on those charges may occur before the substantive Federal Court trial begins.

The next court date for FWBC’s case is a directions hearing on 25 March 2013.

Compensation developments

The compensation orders sought by FWBC have also changed.

In the original pleadings filed on 5 October 2012, FWBC sought compensation for Grocon and its subcontractors.

However, the amended pleadings filed on 14 December 2012 discontinue the claim for compensation for Grocon.

The reasoning is that Grocon is maintaining its own claim for compensation in the Supreme Court.  FWBC is still seeking compensation for the subcontractors.

Further information

FWBC website – FWBC v CFMEU, Setka, Reardon, Christopher, Spernovasilis, Oliver, Edwards, Stephenson and Johnston

Media release – FWBC launches Grocon proceedings

Media backgrounder – FWBC launches Grocon proceedings

Return to newsletters