CONSTRUCTION industry authority the Fair Work Building and Construction (FWBC) inspectorate has launched proceedings against a major trade union on allegations a union official padlocked an on-site lunch shed to prevent non-union members from entering.
In a hearing taking place early next month, the inspectorate will allege to the Federal Circuit Court that Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU) official Scott Vink entered a Gold Coast construction site on the premise of safety concerns, but failed to make any investigation to that effect.
Instead, Mr Vink headed for a smoko shed at the Pacific Fair redevelopment site, locking the door with a padlock and declaring ‘sheds were won by unionists for unionists’.
The inspectorate also alleges workers’ belongings were removed from the shed, including lunches stored in the refrigerator, and that food belonging to non-union members was thrown to the ground outside.
When asked by a health and safety manager if the workers could at least leave their lunches in the fridge, Mr Vink allegedly replied: “No. Maybe you can put Neil’s stuff in the fridge. Neil’s a union member and that’s how fridges came about on sites, mate.”
As well as swearing at a manager a number of times, Mr Vink then allegedly tried to tip the manager out of his chair, stating, “Get out of the shed, you scab”. Further altercation then led to the union official padlocking the shed and preventing all access.
As a result of Mr Vink’s alleged conduct, the manager had to arrange for the workers to eat lunch at a nearby shopping centre.
The inspectorate will allege that the CFMEU and the CFMEU Queensland branch contravened the law on four occasions each when Mr Vink obstructed workers by repeatedly refusing entry to the lunch shed.
FWBC Director Nigel Hadgkiss said reports of union officials using safety concerns as a ruse to get on site for other industrial purposes was alarming.
“Union officials who hold a right of entry permit are in a privileged position. All we ask is that they obey the law,” Mr Hadgkiss said.
The maximum penalties available to the Court in this case per breach are $10,200 for an individual, and $51,000 for a union. The matter will be heard in the Federal Circuit Court on 9 March 2015.