The ABCC has taken court action against the CFMMEU and its officials, Andrew Blakeley and Luke Gibson, after they allegedly prevented a concrete pour at a Redbank construction site because a labour hire provider was not covered by a CFMMEU enterprise agreement.
The officials’ actions resulted in around seven truckloads of concrete being wasted.
The two officials are also alleged to have misled the Queensland Police about their powers as federal right of entry permit holders.
The ABCC has filed proceedings in the Federal Court. In its statement of claim, the ABCC is alleging:
Mr Blakeley and Mr Gibson entered the Coles Distribution Facility Project site in Redbank at 3am on 28 February 2020, met site representatives and asserted they were there to enquire into a suspected OHS breach.
A discussion was had to the following effect:
Mr Gibson: We’ve had a report that you’re pouring outside DA [Developers’ Approval] hours, and there’s insufficient lighting.
Site representative: DA conditions have nothing to do with the CFMEU.
Mr Gibson: Get f**ked.
The two union officials:
· Refused to comply with occupational health and safety requests that they sign-in upon entry and not go onto site unescorted.
· Entered the site and approached a work area where a concrete pour was to take place.
· Entered an exclusion zone and stood in the path of, and behind, a loaded concrete truck preventing it from discharging its load.
· Moved themselves to positions which prevented additional trucks, which had arrived at the site to deliver concrete, from discharging their loads.
· Refused repeated requests to move.
While blocking the concrete trucks, Mr Gibson told the subcontractor’s project manager words to the effect of:
You’re robbing the guys of money, working non EBA.
The ABCC will argue the purpose of the officials’ attendance at the site was aimed at coercing the labour hire provider to sign up to a CFMMEU enterprise agreement and not over safety concerns.
At 4:30am, two Queensland Police officers arrived and spoke with Mr Blakeley.
Mr Blakeley misled the police officers about the officials’ power to stop works at the site by saying:
“We’re acting under our permits in good faith
Well we can stop works if we think it’s unsafe under the Act. Yeah, 100%. So it’s a matter of interpretation and unfortunately that’s how the workplace health and safety act works. It’s not exactly black and white. But for us if we think there’s workers at risk, we’ll do anything to avoid that.”
Following a discussion, the officials left the area and re-engaged in discussions with site representatives, where Mr Gibson said words to the effect of:
“None of this would’ve happened if you paid the boys what they’re worth.”
The ABCC is alleging Mr Blakeley and Mr Gibson contravened right of entry requirements and engaged in adverse action. Mr Blakeley misrepresented their authority to stop works at the site. The ABCC further alleges the CFMMEU is liable for the conduct of the CFMMEU officials.
The maximum penalty for each contravention of the Fair Work Act 2009 is $63,000 for a body corporate and $12,600 for an individual.
The ABCC is seeking personal payment orders against both union officials. Such an order would require Court imposed penalties to be paid personally by the officers and not paid or reimbursed directly or indirectly by the CFMMEU or through crowd funding.
Mr Blakeley is a respondent in seven and Mr Gibson a respondent in four ABCC matters currently before the courts.
If you have been the subject of unlawful conduct call us on 1800 003 338 for free advice and assistance about your rights and obligations in the workplace. A free interpreter service is available on 13 14 50.