Union officials fined for illegal picketing under fire for holding Government roles

Dominic Giannini 3 August 2020 2
Constitution Place

A picket at a construction site in Constitution Place has led to two ACT CFMMEU officials being fined while the Union was subject to a $126,000 penalty. Photo: File.

Labor has defended two union officials who hold Government advisory positions after they were fined $12,600 each in the Federal Court on Tuesday (28 July) for illegally picketing the Constitution Place building site in 2018.

The Federal Court’s decision stated that the secretary of the Construction, Forestry, Maritime, Mining and Energy Union’s (CFMMEU) ACT Branch Jason O’Mara and assistant secretary Zach Smith acted “as if they were above the law” and have not expressed any contrition, prompting the Canberra Liberals to call for the two men to be sacked.

“It does not stand to reason that unremorseful union lawbreakers should advise the ACT Government on public procurement decisions,” the Shadow Minister for Business and Employment Andrew Wall said.

“These individuals clearly have no regard for the law and cannot be trusted to provide advice in the public interest.

“The ACT Government should send a clear message that this sort of behaviour will not be tolerated by immediately terminating their appointment to government boards.”

CFMMEU officials Zach Smith and Jason O'Mara

CFMMEU officials Zach Smith and Jason O’Mara were each fined $12,600 for unlawful picketing in 2018. Photo: Twitter.

The pair were among three union officials who were fined for the incident, while the CFMMEU was handed a $126,000 penalty. The union engaged in action against the construction company over alleged underpayment of workers on-site, with a discrepancy over what award the workers were being paid under.

The ACT Minister for Government Services and Procurement, Suzanne Orr, hit back at the Liberals’ attacks, calling them “inflammatory” and “unreasonable”.

“[It is] putting judgement on someone for the work they do and are being found capable of doing”,” she said.

Minister Suzanne Orr

Minister Suzanne Orr labelled the Liberals call to sack two union officals who were fined for illegal picketing as “unreasonable” and “inflammatory”. Photo: Michelle Kroll.

The Government is currently seeking advice on what the court ruling means for the men’s positions, but Minister Orr noted that all appointments go through a “rigorous process” and that “all people appointed to these positions have passed a number of criteria and shown their merit in being selected”.

Mr Smith currently advises the ACT Government on procurement decisions through the Secure Local Jobs Advisory Council, while Mr O’Mara sits on the ACT Work Safety Council.

It is not the first time that the Government and the Opposition have clashed over the CFMMEU, after questions over a $7500 grant to the charity linked to the union resulted in a spectacular clash between Chief Minister Andrew Barr and Opposition leader Alistair Coe in the Assembly last November.

The ACT branch of the CFMMEU has been contacted for comment.


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2 Responses to Union officials fined for illegal picketing under fire for holding Government roles
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MERC600 MERC600 5:39 pm 04 Aug 20

So we have a impasse. This is where we are so fortunate as here in the ACT we have a independent who is a part of the ruling party.
Well actually because of his seat , he has enabled there to be a ruling party, a joint one ( did I get that right ? )
Anyway I guess we shall soon hear of his , and his party, decision on this.
Or has there been something already . ?

TR TR 11:34 am 03 Aug 20

Given that Ms Orr and her Labor colleagues depend on the CFMEU for funding and their seats in Parliament, it’s hardly a surprise that she is attempting to defend the indefensible. It’s a disgrace that these people are allowed to continue as government advisers.

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