In an embarrassment to the building industry “watchdog” – and by extension to the Coalition government - Fair Work Building and Construction (FWBC) has withdrawn charges against construction union national secretary, Michael O’Connor.
The FWBC had previously alleged O’Connor was one of a number of CFMEU officials involved in industrial actions against Boral subsidiary, De Martin and Gasparini. Boral itself has emerged in recent years as one of the most militant anti-union companies in the construction industry after it got caught up in the Victorian CFMEU’s campaign against Grocon during 2013 -2014.
Unfortunately for the FWBC, it seems that the “evidence” of O’Connor’s involvement in the action in question was faulty and a witness (a lawyer for the building company) who had provided a sworn affidavit about the incident has decided he got it wrong. Awkward!
So far the Coalition has been remarkably quiet on the question supposedly at the heart of this double dissolution election – union “lawlessness” and the need to re-establish the ABCC, the FWBC’s predecessor which had much wider powers.
Perhaps though they are just keeping their powder dry until later in the campaign.
The CFMEU’s construction division national secretary, Dave Noonan, said that since the election was called FWBC had been “throwing the kitchen sink” against the union and had initiated multiple proceedings against its officials and members.
But clearly the FWBC will have to do better than they have in this case if they are to help turn union-bashing into a vote winner – or more importantly a vote changer - in the coming election. To date there is little evidence that the Coalition’s long and expensive anti-union campaign is cutting much ice with voters.