Defence will go to war with the CFMEU over the union’s attempt to block military veterans from working without signing up to their union agreements. Picture: News Corp Australia
Defence will go to war with the CFMEU over the union’s attempt to block military veterans from working without signing up to their union agreements. Picture: News Corp Australia

’Very concerned’: CFMEU blasted over union thuggery

Defence will go to war with the CFMEU over the union's attempt to block military veterans from working on a multi-billion dollar project without signing up to their union agreements.

The move comes a day after the union's Victorian boss John Setka was punted from the Labor Party after a series of scandals involving him and his union.

Now in what a federal parliament committee has blasted as a "frightening but consistent" illegal action by the union, Defence has offered to step in and help Veterans in Construction, a firm started to help former Australian Defence Force members establish lives in the civil sector.

Senator Jacqui Lambie told a Senate Defence hearing the group had reached out to her during a veterans reunion event in Dandenong, in Victoria, as a last resort for what she said had developed into a "frightening" situation.

 

Senator Jacqui Lambie pictured at a Senate Estimates hearing in Canberra. Picture: Kym Smith
Senator Jacqui Lambie pictured at a Senate Estimates hearing in Canberra. Picture: Kym Smith

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She said the veterans group contracted to a major Lendlease project would not sign a CFMEU enterprise bargaining agreement to which they were threatened by a union organiser and others they would be kicked off site and have their lives made "as hard as possible".

"Lendlease is very concerned as the CFMEU have told them that unless we go, they will enforce strict working conditions on the site that will cost Lendlease large sums of lost time dollars," Senator Lambie told the committee, reading a letter from Veterans in Construction. To date Lendlease have not asked us to leave because it would be illegal but they are feeling the pressure as we are."

 

Minister for Defence Linda Reynolds, centre, at a Senate Estimates hearing in Canberra. Picture Kym Smith
Minister for Defence Linda Reynolds, centre, at a Senate Estimates hearing in Canberra. Picture Kym Smith

 

John Setka, centre, was punted from the Labor Party after a series of scandals. Picture: AAP
John Setka, centre, was punted from the Labor Party after a series of scandals. Picture: AAP

 

Senator Lambie added the workers were now being attacked on social media and asked the military for help.

It is believed the issue relates to workers on the $2.4 billion Victorian State Government Lendlease project removing 75 level crossings to replace them with safer bridges and walkways. The projects, the largest of its kind in Victorian history, employs more than 4500 workers and also involves rebuilding train stations.

 

The $2.4 billion Victorian State Government Lendlease project is removing 75 level crossings to replace them with safer bridges and walkways. Picture: Norm Oorloff
The $2.4 billion Victorian State Government Lendlease project is removing 75 level crossings to replace them with safer bridges and walkways. Picture: Norm Oorloff

A visibly concerned Defence Minister Linda Reynolds said her office and department would immediately investigate.

"It is an issue also for the Attorney-General (Christian Porter) as the minister for workplace relations," Senator Reynolds said.

"The behaviour you describe is entirely consistent with the reported behaviour of the CFMEU over many years so if you would like to formally raise that with us there are a number of options that they can take. We can provide advice to them as to what action they can take. "This is entirely consistent with the poor behaviour or the illegal behaviour of the CFMEU."

The Defence Committee chair Eric Abetz MP also offered the Australian Building and Construction Commission would be interested in this issue too.

The CFMEU could not be reached for comment. It is understood Lendlease is aware of the issue but could not comment as it was a State Government project.

Controversial union boss Setka was thrown out of the Labor Party yesterday after a series of scandals. He had initially sought legal action to halt his expulsion.


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