Contributed by Ben Wilson
Concrete giant Boral’s subsidiary De Martin & Gasparini, threatened to retrench its 100strong workforce, if they continued to refuse to accept inferior working conditions, after accepting advice from the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU).
The move was so obvious that it prompted the Federal Court’s Justice Michael Wigney to say, “If De Martin & Gasparini found itself between a rock and a hard place, its response to the employees’ refusal to vary the enterprise agreement was to put the employees in an even harder place”.
Having been found to have unlawfully threatened its workforce, the company faces the prospect of tens of thousands of dollars in fines. The maximum that can be imposed is $54,000 for each breach.
On the face of it, Boral should be excluded under the Turnbull government’s new building industry code, from securing government contracts. It remains to be seen however, whether this will take place.
Justice Wigney said that the intimidation was a clear breach of the code.
The judge also observed that managers’ “inflammatory and intimidatory statements” had “little if anything to do with consultation” and “caused upset, distress and anxiety amongst the employees”.
“In all the circumstances, it is difficult to avoid the conclusion that it was intended to inspire or instill fear in the employees.”
CFMEU national secretary Dave Noonan said the union welcomed the decision but pointed the finger at the Turnbull government.
“The stand-off between workers and management is because the government sought to attack workers’ job security and conditions through the building code,” he said.
“To a large extent Malcolm Turnbull and (minister for employment) Michaelia Cash own this debacle”.
For a government that has been so loud in condemning what it claims to be union to remain quiet when it concerns an employer, suggests its partisanship.