Australian union brings construction to standstill

By Helen Wright30 August 2012

Members of Australia's Construction, Forestry, Mining & Energy Union (CFMEU) have illegally blockaded a construction site in Australia, run by contractor Grocon, in a dispute over union membership.

The CFMEU claims non-union members are being intimidated to prevent them from joining the union and also maintain that staff-elected safety officers are not allowed on the site.

Grocon confirmed that workers were being blocked from entering its Emporium construction site - a retail development in Melbourne. The company has secured an Australian Supreme Court injunction preventing CFMEU blockades at all of its sites in Victoria.

Grocon CEO Daniel Grollo said, "I urge the CFMEU to respect the law and to stop their campaign of intimidation against workers on this site."

Grocon said none of its workers or sub-contractors were involved in the blockade at Emporium, and rejected the claim by CFMEU Victorian secretary Bill Oliver that it was "denying workers the right to have legitimate union and safety representatives."

"We do not tell our workers not to join the union," Grocon added. The company has claimed the blockade - in its ninth day - was costing it AU$ 371000 (US$ 383000) a day.

Representatives from Grocon are due to meet union bosses this week in an attempt to resolve the dispute.

The news comes after the Federal Magistrates Court at Perth ordered the CFMEU to pay a fine of AU$ 9240 (US$ 9100) in May for making false and misleading statements regarding workers' obligation to join the union.

The Australian Building & Construction Commissioner launched legal proceedings against CFMEU and six of its organisers for 34 counts of unlawful industrial action and nine acts of coercion.

It says the union pressured Abigroup Contractors, part of Lend Lease, to employ particular union members on the company's Peninsula Link project, with illegal industrial action on five major projects in Victoria.

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