The Australian Building and Construction Commission is taking legal action against two officials of Tasmania’s Construction, Forestry, Maritime, Mining and Energy Union claiming one of them interfered with crane operations on a site in Devonport, Northern Tasmania.
The Commission alleges that CFMMEU officials Richard Hassett and Kevin Harkins, “hindered, obstructed and acted in an improper manner on two separate occasions on 5 and 6 June 2017 and failed to comply with occupational health and safety requirements on the site." When they entered the job site on June 5th and 6th last year. It says that they went to the site office, citing safety as the reason that they needed to come on site.
The complaint adds that the site manager asked Hassett for his entry notice, and that he responded by giving the manager the ‘middle finger’ and apparently told him to “Get f**ked — that will never happen”. Hassett is then alleged to have climbed into the cab of one of the cranes that was in mid lift and stopped it from working for 20 minutes or so while he spoke to the operator about pay rates and joining the union. Harkins is alleged to have been present when this went on.
The two had ignored a sign on the crane stating, “No unauthorised interruption of operator during crane operation.” The complaint states that the site manager told Hassett that it was unsafe for him to be on the crane and asked him to climb down.
The following day Hassett returned and again stopped a crane while it was operating. The action claims that he told the crane operator that the union was chasing the subcontractor to sign an Enterprise Bargaining Agreement. The crane operator is said to have replied: “You are speaking to the wrong person, get off my crane."
In the event that the claim is substantiated in court, the maximum penalty as a breach of the Fair Work Act is $54,000 for entities and $10,800 for individuals. Penalties already imposed against the union and its officials nationally already exceed $15 million.