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.”
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.
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.