Exclusive by Workforce editor David Marin-Guzman. First published May 22, 2015.
The two whistleblowers at the centre of allegations the Construction Forestry Mining Energy Union (CFMEU) NSW branch has had links with organised crime have filed adverse action claims against the union claiming it sacked them because of their “political opinions”.
The union is understood to have dismissed NSW branch organisers Andrew Quirk and Brian ‘Jock’ Miller last month after the pair failed to respond to charges their speaking out against the union amounted to gross misbehavior.
In an October 2014 report by ABC’s 730, Quirk and Miller went public over their concerns the CFMEU had failed to properly investigate links between the NSW branch and underworld figure George Alex, who was involved in labour hire and scaffolding companies. Alex has been accused of paying kickbacks to CFMEU officials.
Quirk had first taken the claims to CFMEU national secretary Michael O’Connor in 2013. The claims formed part of a joint report by Fairfax Media and 730 in January 2014 and were the principle reason cited by the Federal Government in setting up the Trade Union Royal Commission (WF 31/01/2014).
Following the second 730 program the national union summonsed Quirk and Miller before a special executive disciplinary committee on November 18 to face allegations of gross misbehaviour and having made adverse comments about the union.
In response Workforce Daily understands Quirk and Miller sought interlocutory orders in the Federal Court, with the CFMEU and construction division secretary Dave Noonan listed as respondents. The application was dismissed by consent in February 2015.
Workforce understands the union set up a further disciplinary meeting for April 17, 2015 but Quirk and Miller did not attend.
‘Everyone disappointed’ if ends in court: lawyer
Lawyer Chris McArdle, who previously represented disgraced ex-HSU secretary Craig Thomson, is representing Quirk and Miller.McArdle told Workforce both had doctor certificates to excuse their absences at the meeting.
The pair’s adverse action applications claim the union’s dismissals:
- breached s351 anti-discrimination provisions protecting political opinion;
- breached s352 protections related to temporary absence or injury;
- discriminated based on physical and mental disability as both Quirk and Miller were on workers’ compensation at the time;
- were because they engaged in “industrial activity” protected under s346; and
- were because they made a complaint based on occupational health and safety law as protected under s340.
McArdle said he aimed to fully resolve the claims at conference before Fair Work Commissioner Donna McKenna this Friday (May 22). He said there was an “awful lot in dispute” and “if this has to be litigated I think everyone will be disappointed”. The CFMEU’s O’Connor declined to comment.
Meanwhile, the Trade Union Royal Commission continues to investigate the CFMEU NSW and its involvement with Alex, with three weeks of hearings expected from June 10. Quirk and Miller have yet to give evidence to the cmn.
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