Australian watchdog alleges union intimidation of contractor

By Chris Sleight08 May 2012

The Australian Building and Construction Commissioner (ABCC) has launched legal proceedings against the Construction Forestry Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU) and six of its organisers for alleged breaches of the Building and Construction Industry Improvement Act 2005 (BCII Act). 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.

ABCC, which is a government body, alleges 34 counts of unlawful industrial action and nine acts of coercion, with the union targeting five Abigroup projects with a total value of AU$ 1.2 billion (US$ 1.3 billion).

Trouble is said to have started between Abigroup and CFMEU on June 16, 2010, when a meeting between representatives of the two groups took place. It is alleged that CFMEU representatives demanded that certain members of the union be employed on the Peninsula Link scheme. These demands were said to have been repeated in phone calls during July and August.

CFMEU members are then said to have taken a variety of illegal actions, including blockading sites, calling meetings of employees without giving prior notice and encouraging them to strike and shouting abuse at Abigroup employees.

CFMEU has not issue a a statement on the allegations.

The maximum penalty for a contravention of the BCII Act are fines of AU$ 22,000 (US$ 23,650) for an individual and AU$ 110,000 (US$ 118,300) for an organisation.

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