A decision of Justice Flick of the Federal Court earlier this year, delivered an embarrassing loss for the ABCC in one of their first claims against the ACT branch of the CFMEU.
Primarily, the ABCC’s allegation was that a blockade conducted by the union at a worksite in Canberra was in response to the employer’s decision to refuse to sign an enterprise agreement. It was argued that the blockade amounted to adverse action and coercion against the company.
The union was successful in defeating the claim by explaining to the Court that the blockade was conducted in order to prevent workers from being exposed to asbestos on an adjacent work site and the safety concerns associated with heavy machinery being driven through a childcare car park.
On this point, Justice Flick found the union’s evidence regarding the safety concerns to be genuine.
He held “the allegations as to contraventions of ss 343 and/or 355 are rejected. The principal reason for so concluding is that the purpose sought to be pursued…” in conducting the blockade were “founded upon concerns as to safety: asbestos... and traffic...”
The ABCC have since made an application to appeal Flick J’s decision.