The Fair Work Ombudsman (FWO) has commenced legal action in the Federal Court against the Construction, Forestry, Maritime, Mining and Energy Union of Australia (CFMMEU) and five of its officials for alleged adverse action and coercion at a Queensland mine.
The five CFMMEU officials facing court, and their positions during the alleged conduct, are:
- Stephen Smyth, District President of the Queensland District Branch of the Mining and Energy Division;
- Chris Brodsky, District Vice President of the Queensland District Branch of the Mining and Energy Division;
- Brodie Brunker, Broadmeadow Mine Lodge Assistant Secretary of the Queensland District Branch of the Mining and Energy Division;
- Jade Ingham, Divisional Branch Assistant Secretary of the Queensland and Northern Territory Construction and General Branch; and
- Blake Hynes, Delegate of the Queensland and Northern Territory Construction and General Branch.
The FWO alleges the breaches of workplace laws occurred at the Oaky North Underground Coal Mine, located north-west of Emerald between July 2017 and December 2017.
It is alleged that the CFMMEU and each of the five officials contravened the Fair Work Act by engaging in, encouraging, inciting, directing or authorising abusive conduct that amounted to adverse action and coercion during an industrial dispute at the mine.
During the industrial dispute, CFMMEU members at the mine took protected industrial action, including stoppages of work, and in response, the mine operator, Oaky Creek Coal Pty Ltd, locked the CFMMEU members out of the mine.
It is alleged the abusive conduct was directed at employees and contractors who continued to work at the mine while the CFMMEU’s members were taking protected industrial action or were locked out by Oaky Creek Coal Pty Ltd, and was aimed at coercing those workers into engaging in industrial activity.
Fair Work Ombudsman Sandra Parker said that all workers have a lawful right to exercise their right not to participate in the activities of a union.
“The Fair Work Ombudsman is prepared to take legal action to uphold the provisions of the Fair Work Act that protect freedom of association by ensuring that employees are free to participate, or not participate, in industrial activity,” Ms Parker said.
“Any workers with concerns about freedom of association should contact us for free assistance.”
The FWO alleges the conduct engaged in by the CFMMEU and the five officials included:
- verbal abuse of the workers on their way to/from work each day from a series of pickets that had been established;
- social media abuse of the workers on a CFMMEU-administered Facebook page; and
- erecting signs along the road approaching the mine naming certain workers as “scabs”.
The FWO is seeking penalties against the CFMMEU and each of the five officials for multiple alleged contraventions of the Fair Work Act. The CFMMEU faces maximum penalties of up to $63,000 per contravention. The officials each face maximum penalties of up to $12,600 per contravention.
Employers and employees can visit www.fairwork.gov.au or call the Fair Work Infoline on 13 13 94 for free advice and assistance about their rights and obligations in the workplace.