Kane Constructions claims its sites were targeted by CFMEU officials

Another major builder claims it was targeted by the militant construction union and its senior officials, who allegedly incited unlawful strikes and temporarily shut down key projects across Melbourne and Geelong.
Nanjing Night Net

Kane Constructions says 100 workers in both cities walked off the job after the union converged on eight sites – including multimillion-dollar hospitals and council developments – over two days in 2014.

The walk-outs were allegedly in retaliation to the company calling in police to arrest union organiser Mick Powell for trespassing – a charge that was later withdrawn.

Kane is the latest employer in the building industry to allege an illegal campaign orchestrated by the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union.

The allegations come as the federal government focuses heavily on the CFMEU’s alleged lawlessness to press for the need to resurrect the hardline Australian Building and Construction Commission.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has threatened a rare double-dissolution election if the Senate does not agree to bring back the controversial Howard-era regulator.

The CFMEU is strongly opposed to the ABCC’s reinstatement and, on Tuesday, claimed Mr Turnbull’s “politically motivated” attack on unions had backfired, after a Newspoll showed the Coalition has fallen behind Labor, 51-49.

“Attacking workers’ rights and unions hasn’t worked for Malcolm Turnbull because it’s about self-interest, not what’s best for Australia, for working people and their families,” national secretary Michael O’Connor said.

In new legal proceedings, the existing construction watchdog – Fair Work Building and Construction – outlines the alleged details of the CFMEU’s “co-ordinated industrial campaign” against Kane Constructions.

Federal Court documents claim Kane managers told the watchdog that CFMEU officials organised simultaneous visits across Kane sites on April 2, hours after Mr Powell was arrested for failing to show a right-of-entry permit at the gates to a construction project in Ringwood.

Ten union officials are accused of a range of industrial law violations, including unlawful industrial action, entering work sites without right-of-entry permits and failing to provide 24 hours’ notice.

Responding to the allegations, union state secretary John Setka condemned the “ludicrously political” nature of the Fair Work Building and Construction agency, whose prosecutions should be an “embarrassment for the government”.

“CFMEU safety officers and organisers spend their days preventing, or worse, rectifying appalling safety breaches,” he said. “FWBC however, remains fixated on chasing paperwork and filling the swear jar.”

FWBC director Nigel Hadgkiss​ said the rule of law must be obeyed in all workplaces.

“In this case, it is alleged that a contractor has been deliberately victimised for simply trying to ensure that the law is followed on its sites,” he said.

“This lack of respect and disregard for our nation’s workplace laws is completely unacceptable.”

Among the Kane sites allegedly affected were Richmond’s Epworth Hospital, the Geelong Hospital, Sandringham’s Mercy Hospital, and the St John of God Hospital in Geelong, an aged care facility in Templestowe, a library, an aquatic centre, an office building and an apartment tower.

In one instance detailed in the court documents, Kane’s site manager is said to have stopped union organiser Bill Beattie at the gates of the Emporia apartment complex in Prahran on May 22 to ask the reason for his visit.

“I’m not f—–g giving you any reasons for anything today,” Beattie is alleged to have said. “You f—-g do what you’ve got to do, I’m having a meeting with the boys.”

At a BUPA aged care construction site in Templestowe, where up to 30 workers attended a meeting and walked off the job, the site occupier allegedly told CFMEU officer Lee McKenzie, “What you have done is Illegal, l am going to have to report you”.

Mr McKenzie allegedly responded: “I know it is illegal but I had to do it.”

The case follows other allegations that the CFMEU organised an industry-wide boycott of concrete giant Boral that locked the company out of most central Melbourne work sites after it refused to cede to union demands. The union’s two top Victorian branch officials are currently facing court on charges of blackmailing Boral.

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

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