The Australian Building and Construction Commission (ABCC) has set its sights on the Australian Workers Union (AWU), an organiser and 53 OneSteel workers.

The move to pursue steelworkers is an uncommon but much welcome step outside the ABCC’s regular prosecution of CFMMEU-related workplace breaches from within the construction industry.

It comes after the ABCC commenced proceedings in the Federal Court against the AWU and two of its officials alleging they organised a three-day strike on major construction projects in Melbourne late last year.

The Australian Financial Review reported the ABCC is alleging in court documents that OneSteel is part of the building industry because it delivers pre-fabricated components and other steel reinforcing products for use in major construction projects in Victoria.

The article highlights a statement of claim, in which the ABCC alleges that an AWU organiser told a OneSteel delegate to tell workers they had the right to participate in a “political protest” and that the rally would not be industrial action.

AWU Victorian secretary Ben Davis was reported criticising the ABCC for targeting steelworkers who are neither building nor construction workers, claiming the ABCC “is a politically motivated agency not about improving the construction industry”.

The alleged breach involves AWU officials Craig Kelly and Ian Robertson are alleged to have organised unlawful industrial action on 23 and 31 October 2018 and 1 November 2018 involving 53 employees.

A further 53 employees are alleged to have engaged in unlawful industrial action over a three day period.

The employees were engaged by OneSteel Reinforcing at its Noble Park premises in the manufacturing of made-to-order prefabricated components and other steel reinforcing products.

The ABCC alleges that on 23 October 2018 the two officials spoke to employees who were AWU members about attending a “Change the Rules” rally as part of an Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) campaign.

The employees did not attend work across a number of shifts that day.

The ABCC alleges Mr Kelly addressed employees in the lunchroom on 31 October 2018 and encouraged them to take industrial action because of his disapproval of their employer conducting meetings with the employees who did not attend work on 23 October 2018. The dayshift employees subsequently left the site.

Later that day, it is also alleged Mr Kelly met with representatives of the employer and told them the afternoon shift employees would not continue working unless the dayshift employees were paid and the meetings with employees stopped, and made two additional demands for strike pay.

As a result on 31 October 2018, each of the afternoon shift employees did not attend work from about 3.45pm till 11.30pm. The night shift employees also did not attend work on the day. On 1 November 2018 dayshift employees did not commence work until the Fair Work Commission made an order that the employees stop taking industrial action.

The ABCC is alleging the conduct in this case contravenes the unlawful industrial action provisions in the Building and Construction Industry (Improving Productivity) Act 2016 and strike pay provisions in the Fair Work Act 2009.

The maximum penalty per contravention in this case is $210,000 for a body corporate and $42,000 for an individual.

Federal Court penalises CFMMEU $78,000 after coercing worker to pay union fees

The Federal Court this month imposed total penalties of $78,000 against the CFMMEU and two of its shop stewards for coercing a worker to pay union fees on two separate construction sites in the Melbourne CBD. CFMMEU shop stewards Maurice Campanaro and Joe Caratozzolo both admitted to coercing a worker to pay union membership fees before he was allowed to commence work at the Trillium Project and EQ Tower construction sites.

On 25 November 2016, union shop steward Mr Campanaro met with the painting contractor at the Trillium Project. During that meeting Mr Campanaro told the worker he had to pay fees to the CFMMEU in order to commence working at the site.  After paying the fees to the CFMMEU, the worker was then allowed to commence work.

“Mr Campanaro coerced [the worker] into paying fees to the CFMMEU in order to commence working. Contraventions of the FW Act involving coercive conduct are particularly serious…” Justice O’Callaghan said in his judgment. “In arriving at an appropriate penalty for the CFMMEU, I take into account its prior history, its apparent willingness to contravene the FW Act in a serious way to impose its will, and the need for deterrence of an organisation of its size and financial resources.

Full Federal Court imposes $1.7M in penalties against CFMMEU for “executing illegal industrial activity” at Barangaroo site

A total of $1.7 million in penalties has been imposed by the Full Federal Court against the CFMMEU and a number of its senior officials, including its former and current State Secretaries Brian Parker and Darren Greenfield, for unlawful conduct at the Barangaroo site.

In re-imposing penalties, the Full Court ordered the CFMMEU’s national office to pay 75 per cent of the maximum penalties available. The CFMMEU’s NSW’s office was ordered to pay 40 per cent of the maximum penalties available.  The CFMMEU’s National Office was fined $1,007,250 and the CFMMEU NSW office was fined $510,000.

Former NSW State Secretary Brian Parker was fined $45,400, former union official Luke Collier fined $40,400 and union officials Robert Kera and Danny Reeves fined $41,250 and $41,000 respectively.

Another five individuals were fined a combined total of $21,000. The Federal Court previously found the CFMMEU forced a shutdown of the site in support of their union delegate Peter Genovese who had been suspended from his employment after incidents of throwing a punch at a site manager and threatening to “kill” him.

CFMMEU officials stop workers over one hour pay claim

The ABCC has commenced legal proceedings in the Federal Court against the CFMMEU and two of its organisers, Anthony Sloane and Brendan Holl, after they stopped workers on a Sydney construction site in February 2018.

The proceeding is the first commenced by the ABCC under the Building and Construction Industry (Improving Productivity) Act 2016 (BCIIP Act) in New South Wales. The ABCC is alleging the pair organised a number of workers from Westform Formwork to unlawfully stop work on the Mezzo Stage 2 Project in Bay Street, Glebe over a disputed claim that the workers were entitled to one hour’s pay for a period of wet weather.

The ABCC alleges Mr Sloane and Mr Holl addressed the workers at a pre-start meeting where they advised Westform that the workers would not return to work until the payment was made. Mr Sloane said words to the effect that: “You can call the Police, the ABCC or even God, but I will not be moving from this site until the payments I’ve requested have been paid. I’m going to park myself here on the job and cause issues for Westform if you don’t fix this.”