Fair Work is taking legal action against the Construction, Forestry, Maritime, Mining and Energy Union for allegedly abusing ‘scab’ miners.
The regulator has launched legal action in the Federal Court against the union in addition to five of its officials for alleged coercion and adverse action.
Fair Work takes legal action against CFMMEU
The legal action involves conduct of CFMMEU members during strike action at the Oaky North Underground Coal Mine in Queensland in 2017.
During the industrial dispute, CFMMEU members took protected industrial action, including stoppages of work.
Mine management subsequently locked the CFMMEU members out of the mine.
Fair Work alleges that union members abused other employees in addition to contractors who continued to work at the mine.
Specifically, the regulator accuses the five officials of:
- verbally abusing the workers on their way to/from work each day from a series of pickets that had been established;
- social media abuse of the workers on a CFMMEU-administered Facebook page; and
- erecting signs along the road approaching the mine naming certain workers as “scabs”.
Fair Work alleges the five officials contravened the Fair Work Act by engaging in, encouraging, inciting, directing or authorising abusive conduct that amounted to adverse action and coercion during an industrial dispute at the mine.
Facing court are:
- Stephen Smyth, District President of the Queensland District Branch of the Mining and Energy Division;
- Chris Brodsky, District Vice President of the Queensland District Branch of the Mining and Energy Division;
- Brodie Brunker, Broadmeadow Mine Lodge Assistant Secretary of the Queensland District Branch of the Mining and Energy Division;
- Jade Ingham, Divisional Branch Assistant Secretary of the Queensland and Northern Territory Construction and General Branch; and
- Blake Hynes, Delegate of the Queensland and Northern Territory Construction and General Branch.
Industrial advocate Miles Heffernan from Fair Work Claims says Queensland workplace laws protect union activity in addition to non-union activity.
“The law protects freedom of association by ensuring that employees are free to participate, or not participate, in industrial activity,” he said.
“Therefore, in this case, the miners who wanted to keep working should have been able to do so without experiencing adverse action in the form of abuse or coercion as is alleged.”
As a result of the multiple alleged contraventions Fair Work is seeking penalties against the CFMMEU and each of the five officials.
The CFMMEU faces maximum penalties of $63,000 per contravention.
Meanwhile, the officials each face maximum penalties of $12,600 per contravention.