The Fair Work Commission has confirmed what 1000 construction workers have known since last year. The developer responsible for delivering James Packer’s luxury Barangaroo hotel and casino complex victimises unionists for standing up over safety standards.
In July 2014, members of the construction union, the CFMEU, walked off the Barangaroo construction site after Lend Lease suspended union delegate and chairman of the site safety committee Peter Genovese.
A veteran of the construction industry, Genovese was stood down in March over charges the union called “trumped up”, including using offensive language. In fact, the CFMEU says, his suspension was punishment for criticising the company after two fires at the massive inner-city construction site exposed Lend Lease’s inadequate evacuation plans.
When hundreds of workers downed tools over Genovese’s treatment, they were ordered back to work by the Commission within hours. It issued a ban against any further action in defence of the delegate. Lend Lease did the corporate equivalent of puffing its chest and threatened to take the union to the Federal Court to seek damages over the disruption.
Now, after the CFMEU has been fighting to get Genovese back on site for months, the Commission has quietly found that the union was right. It upheld an earlier decision that Genovese “has been treated differently to other employees as a result of his role as union delegate” and ordered that he immediately be reinstated to his role at Barangaroo.
Back on the job, Genovese said that he appreciates the response he’s received from other union members on site. “There was a different atmosphere when I came back, it was like ‘Great, the union’s back in town’”, he said. “Workers pass you and nod or shake your hand.”
Despite the Commission finding against it Lend Lease will not face any sanctions for its attack on union rights. Fair Work Building and Construction – the construction industry regulatory agency – ordinarily prolific in its public commentary about “intimidation” in the industry has remained silent about Genovese’s case.
FWBC is currently pursuing charges against 72 CFMEU officials in courts across the country. It has not commenced a single case against an employer since September 2013.