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Issue #1716      January 27, 2016

Charges dropped against 28 CFMEU members

The CFMEU has called for a legal case against its members in Western Australia to be discontinued after a third of the defendants were dropped from the action.

Industrial action at the Perth Children’s Hospital site in Nedlands.

The Fair Work Building Inspectorate (FWBI) originally charged 101 workers who allegedly took unlawful industrial action at the new $1.2 billion Perth Children’s Hospital site in Nedlands in July 2013.

The Federal Court was last month told charges against five workers had been dropped. That number has now grown by 28.

Simon Millman of Slater & Gordon said he had never experienced such a situation. “That’s 33 workers in total out of the original 101 who’ve now had their cases dropped by the FWBC,” he said.

“In my experience, and I’ve been doing this for the union for a number of years, this is unprecedented.” CFMEU state secretary Mick Buchan said the rest of the cases should also be dropped.

“It’s an absolute farce what’s been going on,” he said.

“These workers, 101, were charged two years after allegedly attending a meeting for fair pay and conditions. They’ve been put through the mill for the last eight months.

“They’ve had to come into our office on different occasions and speak to lawyers. They’ve had to give up family time, they’ve had to put their family and their kids and their loved ones through the trauma associated with this.”

The FWBC said the decision to drop charges against the workers was made after a subcontractor at the St John of God Hospital site in Midland was re-interviewed.

It was originally believed that a large number of the workers who had been charged should have been at the Midland site on the day in question. But an FWBC spokesman said they had discovered 28 of the charged workers were not rostered on that day.

An investigation into precisely where the workers came from is continuing.

The spokesman said the five workers who were earlier dropped from the action either could not be served, had moved away or were possibly deceased.

Mr Millman said the fate of the remaining workers who were charged remained unknown. “I’ve spoken this morning to another one of those blokes who’s said ‘well, what’s happening with my case?’ Unfortunately I’m in a position where I’ve got to say to him, ‘I’m sorry mate, I don’t know’,” he said.

Meanwhile Mr Buchan said the bringing of charges would not deter union members from raising issues where and when appropriate.

“I think within our industry, if there’s an issue based around health and safety and about protecting one another, it won’t matter what’s in place, workers will make a stand and take action,” he said.

He rejected any suggestion projects may have been affected, saying they came in ahead of schedule and under budget.

Next article – Waroona fire – Australia and global warming

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