Pacific Highway Ballina to Woolgolga upgrade, August 2020.
Pacific Highway Ballina to Woolgolga upgrade, August 2020.

Union workers sued over Pacific Highway drama

A UNION is being sued for allegedly obstructing key work on the Woolgoolga to Ballina Pacific Highway upgrade, costing the project money and wasted concrete.

The Australian Building and Construction Commission (ABCC) has filed proceedings in the Federal Circuit Court alleging the Construction, Forestry, Maritime, Mining and Energy Union (CFMMEU) and two officials took unlawful industrial action at the $4.9 billion highway upgrade project.

The ABCC is alleging on August 22, 2019, CFMMEU officials Dean Rielly and Paul Fitzpatrick refused to follow lawful directions and prevented a concrete pour from occurring - resulting in 11 cubic metres of concrete being wasted and workers missing out on two-hours of overtime and wages.

In its statement of claim, the ABCC is alleging Mr Rielly and Mr Fitzpatrick approached a leading hand at the time a concrete pour was about to begin.


Pacific Highway Ballina to Woolgolga upgrade, August 2020.
Pacific Highway Ballina to Woolgolga upgrade, August 2020.


The leading hand allegedly asked the officials to sign a task hazard review card used to record safety measures and all personnel present in the work area.

The officials allegedly refused to do so.

Shortly after the arrival of the civil engineering contractor's site engineer and a leading hand, both officials positioned themselves behind the concrete truck in an exclusion zone.

The leading hand requested both officials move away from the exclusion zone.

But according to the statement of claim, Mr Rielly told the leading hand "No we're not going to move".

"We're going to stand here," Mr Rielly allegedly said.

"We can fine you $10,000 and it's a $50,000 company fine for obstructing union officials and denying them access to a work area."

It is then alleged the site engineer told the men: "We're not here to obstruct you".

"We are merely requesting that you move to a safe location so the relevant persons can address your issues," he said.

Mr Rielly and Mr Fitzpatrick reportedly remained between the rear of the truck and the site of the concrete pour and refused to move out of the exclusion zone.

Despite repeated requests for them to move, the concrete pour had to be abandoned and the concrete disposed.

The officials' actions also prevented a number of workers earning wages and overtime as a result of the concrete pour being disrupted.

Following the concrete pour being abandoned, it's alleged the officials approached a number of workers in an attempt to sign them up to the union.

The ABCC is alleging both officials and the CFMMEU breached the Fair Work Act by intentionally hindering and obstructing and acting in an improper manner.

The maximum available penalty for each contravention of the Fair Work Act in this case is $63,000 for a body corporate and $12,600 for an individual.