Construction union officials have been found liable for trying to force building company BKH Group to sign a pattern enterprise agreement at two Sydney building sites by threatening to “smash” their jobs if they refused.
The Australian Federal Court has also found a CFMEU official kicked down a safety rail before instructing workers to leave the site because of an absence of safety rails.
The court also concluded that officials had stopped concrete trucks from entering a building site by sitting on the bonnets of cars to stop them being towed away.
The Australian Building and Construction Commission had alleged CFMEU official Darren Taylor threatened to “smash” jobs as a warning to other contractors against refusing the union’s EBA.
Federal Court Justice Geoffrey Flick concluded that CFMEU officials threatened action against the company “with intent to coerce”.
He said the union sent a “simple message” that formwork companies were to sign the enterprise agreement proposed by the CFMEU “otherwise the union would pick one of them and ‘smash’ the company selected”
A text message which said “eenie, meenie, minie mo” sent by union official Robert Kera in February 2015 was found to have been sent as a threat to reinforce a message that one formworkcompany was to be selected at random. Mr Kera did not give evidence.
“The conclusion that the text was sent as a threat and was intended as a threat is a conclusion founded upon both the terms themselves and also the context in which the text was sent,” Justice Flick said.
Justice Flick accepted that union official Ben Garvey deliberately kicked a safety handrail until it fell in March, 2015 and then instructed workers to leave the project citing a lack of safety rails.
The judge concluded “that there was no reasonable basis upon which any opinion could be formed that the handrail was unsafe”.
“Any suggestion that Mr Garvey was simply testing the strength of the safety rails is rejected; his conduct was that of a man intent on creating disruption and generating a safety concern where none previously existed,” Justice Flick said.
A penalty decision will follow the liability finding against the CFMEU and its officials.