Australia’s biggest construction union is facing legal action after the nation’s building industry watchdog filed charges over allegations of illegal industrial action at various sites associated with the $1.8 billion Perth Airport Rail Link.
In its latest announcement, the Australia Building and Construction Commission says it has commenced proceedings against the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union (CFMMEU) and three of its officers whom it says organised illegal industrial action on three sites associated with the Forrestfield to Perth Airport Rail Project.
The three organisers are CFMEU WA State Secretary Michael Buchan, Assistant State Secretary Graham Pallot and organiser Walter Molina.
The ABCB has also alleged that 44 employees of head contractor Salini Impregilo-NRW Joint Venture (SI-NRW) participated in illegal industrial action across the three sites.
Jointly funded by the Commonwealth and Western Australian governments, the Forrestfield-Airport Link is set to deliver a new rail service to the eastern suburbs of Perth and will include three new stations at Redcliffe, Airport Central and Forrestfield.
First trains are expected during the second half of 2021.
Late last year, however, a dispute arose in respect of redundancy payments which are to be received by workers at the conclusion of the project.
According to the ABCB’s claim, several CFMMEU officers including Mr Molina met with SI-NRW workers to discuss the payments.
Four days later on December 10, workers at each of the Forrestfield, Bayswater and Redcliffe Station sites walked off the job at around noon – some workers at Forrestfield claiming to have a stomach illness.
This occurred after Molina earlier that morning set up a table in the parking area of the site and spoke to workers as they entered.
It also occurred despite SI-NRW section managers addressing staff at each site and advising that their redundancy pay in their enterprise bargaining agreement was in line with National Employment Standards and that the company was considering issues raised.
As a result of the walkout, scaffold workers engaged by a subcontractor at the Redcliffe site were unable to work.
Further, at around 12:30, Mr Pallot, Mr Molina and 11 employees picketed the contractor’s head office.
There, they allegedly parked vehicles at the carpark entrance, banged on the office windows and barricaded the front door.
The ABCC has alleged that the conduct in this case contravenes the unlawful industrial action provision in the Building and Construction Industry (Improving Productivity) Act 2016 (BCIIP Act) and the adverse action and coercion provisions in the Fair Work Act 2009 (FW Act).
The maximum penalty per contravention of the BCIIP Act in this case is $210,000 for a body corporate and $42,000 for an individual. The maximum penalty per contravention of the FW Act in this case is $63,000 for a body corporate and $12,600 for an individual.