The Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU) claimed that a standoff began when union officials attempted to check worker certification and spotted safety breaches.
Mainbrace Constructions, the worksite’s manager, argued that it had been harassed by officials who were attempting to win jobs for union aligned companies.
The CMFU has since filed a lawsuit against Mainbrace, and the incident is now due to be examined by the Federal Court.
Court documents reveal that the union has alleged Mainbrace and the company’s foreman breached the Fair Work Act by preventing permit-holders from entering the sit to inspect records and safety conditions.
Mainbrace will defend the lawsuit, and claimed that the officials were not entitled to enter their site.
The nature of the visit was also disputed – Mainbrace argued that the CMFEU visited to inspect records but failed to give the required 24 hours’ notice, and alleged that union officials did not intend to inspect suspected safety contraventions.
However, the law dictates that permit-holders can enter worksites without prior notice if contraventions of the Work Health and Safety Act are reasonably suspected.
The CMFEU has requested that the court fined Mainbrace for each breach of the Fair Work Act, with any penalties imposed to be paid to the union.
These breaches carry maximum charges of $10,000 for an individual and $50,000 for a business.
Court documents, which were filed by the union, said that officials visited to site in November as they had reason to believe that some workers involved in a concrete pour had not completed compulsory certification and were not fully covered by workers’ compensation insurance.
According to the union, the foreman had been contacted the day before the visit for confirmation on workers’ status. He had also been notified that the union officials would attend the pour.
The union also alleged that the worksite had just one access and egress, which breaches safety obligations.
The documents claim that union officials saw workers under the concrete pump boom with no exclusion zone, which placed them at risk if the boom collapsed.
Union officials said that they called the foreman, but eventually approached the site when they received no response. It is alleged that the foreman then told the officials to “get off the site”, accusing them of trespassing. The officials told him that they had a right to be there, and allegedly called the police, who then blocked them from further entry.
However, the foreman claimed that the officials attempted to pressure Mainbrace into using a union-recommended company. The documents also allege that the union officials called the foreman a “scab” and threatened to “get” him and “stop the pour”.
The foreman claimed he called the police as the officials had entered the site unlawfully and refused to leave.
The court case is due in the Federal Court in April.
The operators of a Canberra worksite are due to face union officials in the Federal Court, after police were called to deal with a confrontation about right of entry between them in November.