A head contractor has successfully obtained an injunction
against the CFMEU, CEPU and another union as well as some of their
officials, who are alleged to have engaged in unlawful interference
with contractual relations and conspiracy arising out of industrial
action in dealings with subcontractors. The Federal Court agreed
there was a serious issue to be tried as to whether the unions had
breached the general protections provisions in the Fair Work
Act 2009 (Cth) and secondary boycott laws by pressuring
subcontractors to refuse the head contractor's request for them
to work outside contract hours on the delayed Fortitude Valley
construction project. With the major residential and commercial
tower construction project near Brisbane suffering from around 40
days of industrial action, the head contractor needed the
subcontractors to work outside usual hours to meet completion
deadlines. This was met with resistance from the unions, including
using "safety concerns" with the effect of hampering the
catch up efforts which prompted the interlocutory application.
Justice Collier acknowledged that the construction project was at a
critical point and that the balance of convenience favoured the
granting of the injunctive relief; otherwise, the head contractor
would suffer significant financial prejudice should there be
further industrial delays.
View from the sidelines: Industrial action is
not always as obvious as a "picket line" or "tools
down", and employers need to be wary of the sometimes more
subtle (but often intimidating) "slow downs" or
"safety concerns" that can hamper productivity in the
workplace. It is encouraging that the head contractor has
successfully taken action (even if only temporary) to minimise the
unlawful interference on this project. If you are witnessing
similar strategies being employed in your workplace, we would
encourage you to seek legal advice to explore whether your
organisation can take similar steps to protect your business.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general
guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought
about your specific circumstances.
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Long experience representing many of Australia's leading employers has taught us that in employment litigation the identity of an employee's representative is a major factor in how employee litigation runs.
Australian employees receive certain entitlements (such as annual leave and superannuation) where contractors do not.
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