Union officials penalised for hindering work on Brisbane construction site

The CFMEU and three union officials have been penalised a total $38,500 for hindering, obstructing and acting in an improper manner on a Brisbane construction site.

On 28 February 2014, Judge Burnett penalised the now Assistant Secretary Kane Pearson and official Joseph Myles $4,950 each and official Shane Treadaway $2,200 for their conduct at a $350 million city project on 11 February, 2010. The CFMEU was penalised $26,400.

The officials entered the site to investigate alleged safety concerns. In a liability decision delivered on 20 December 2013, Burnett J said: “Plainly, these experienced industrial organisers were more interested in grandstanding by engaging in provocative behaviour in the presence of workers on the site, notwithstanding their presence onsite purportedly being in respect of safety issues. Undoubtedly their behaviour was directed more to recruitment and membership retention than any other object.”

The Court found that Mr Pearson acted in an improper manner by being rude and offensive, including by swearing at and insulting a site foreman: “you’re a d***head, I’m not dealing with you I want to talk to the [project manager]” and by calling the site foreman a “f***wit”, “deadbeat” or “d***head”. Mr Pearson was also found to have intentionally hindered or obstructed or acted in an improper manner by causing the disruption to the work scheduled to take place at the site, soliciting business, and contributed in a substantial way to the disruption on the site by imploring workers to down tools.

When Mr Myles was reminded about protective clothing he should have been wearing, he replied: “I don’t have to answer to you, you f***ing little grub”. Mr Myles said to workers, urging them not to return to work: “One in all in, we’re not going back to work.”

Mr Treadaway walked around the site with an EFTPOS machine.

When delivering his penalty judgment, Burnett J said words to the effect that the union’s lack of corrective action showed a gross failure of corporate governance and that if a large company did this, there would be gross public outcry.

Fair Work Building & Construction Director, Nigel Hadgkiss, said his agency would not tolerate officials using safety as an excuse to enter sites and disrupt work.

“It is unacceptable for officials to obstruct work on Australia’s building sites,” Mr Hadgkiss said. “It is particularly concerning when officials enter sites to investigate safety problems and then do not focus their attention on safety matters.”

“Building and construction is a dangerous industry.  Safety is paramount. Every time union officials use bogus safety claims to enter building sites it undermines the system in place to deal with legitimate safety concerns.”

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