Five CFMMEU officials to face court over alleged abuse

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The union at the centre of one of the longest lockouts in Australian industrial relations history is being taken to court over alleged abusive conduct towards workers who refused to down tools in central Queensland.Key points:The Fair Work Ombudsman alleged the CFMMEU and five of its officials encouraged or engaged in abuseThe incident occurred during…

Five CFMMEU officials to face court over alleged abuse
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The union at the centre of one of the longest lockouts in Australian industrial relations history is being taken to court over alleged abusive conduct towards workers who refused to down tools in central Queensland.

Key points:

  • The Fair Work Ombudsman alleged the CFMMEU and five of its officials encouraged or engaged in abuse
  • The incident occurred during an industrial dispute in 2017 at Oaky North Mine
  • The CFMMEU faces maximum penalties of up to $63,000 for an infringement

Almost 200 miners were involved in the industrial dispute with Swiss-based company Glencore at the Oaky North Mine in Middlemount between July 2017 to March 2018.

The Fair Work Ombudsman has launched action in the Federal Court against the Construction, Forestry, Maritime, Mining and Energy Union (CFMMEU).

The ombudsman alleged union members verbally abused workers going to and from work, abused them on social media, and referred to them as “scabs” on signs along the road close to the mine.

Five CFMMEU officials including Queensland district president Stephen Smyth are accused of alleged abusive conduct and coercion.

Stephen Smyth

Stephen Smyth, president of CFMEU Queensland Mining.

The others are district vice president Chris Brodsky, Broadmeadow Mine Lodge assistant secretary Brodie Bunker, divisional branch assistant secretary Jade Ingham, and delegate Blake Hynes.

In its claim, the ombudsman alleged the CFMMEU and each of the five officials infringed the Fair Work Act by engaging in, or encouraging, abusive conduct which led to adverse action and coercion.

Six months of strikes, picketing

The picket line lasted more than six months and saw miners legally locked out of the Oaky North Mine after strikes.

The dispute ended in March 2018 with a favourable vote on an Enterprise Bargaining Agreement, which workers had rejected two months earlier.

CFMEU protests outside Leighton Holdings' Perth office claiming construction workers at the Perth Airport are being underpaid

CFMEU protests claiming construction workers at the Perth Airport were underpaid.(

Supplied: Graeme Powell

)

Glencore had used contractors to keep production at the mine going, while the union paid the locked-out workers a subsidy wage, while they kept up the picket line outside the mine site.

The ombudsman alleged locked-out CFMMEU members directed abuse at employees and contractors who continued to work at the mine, aiming to coerce those workers into engaging in industrial activity.

In a statement, Fair Work Ombudsman Sandra Parker said workers were within their rights not to engage in union lockouts.

The ABC has contacted the CFMMEU for comment.

Two weeks ago, the CFMMEU was fined more than $200,000 in the Federal Court for organising a strike at the North Queensland Stadium in 2019.

The CFMMEU faces maximum fines of $63,000 for a breach of the Fair Work Act, while each of the charged officials face up to $12,600 in penalties for a contravention if they are found to have breached the Act.

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