Union clash causes $300,000 delay on state project 

Jarrod Brown
By Jarrod Brown
4 Min Read

A CFMEU blockade that stopped a major concrete pour on a state construction project will allegedly cost contractors hundreds of thousands of dollars and cause weeks of delays.

Engineering firm BMD Construction has taken up legal action against the construction union after 40 men sporting CFMEU branding allegedly blocked cement trucks at Brisbane’s $300 million Centenary Bridge Upgrade site for three hours last week. 

According to the contractor, the heated stand-off (which resulted in police being called to the site) stopped BMD from finishing concrete pours for the bridge’s pylons and will force the firm to perform remedial works estimated to cost “at least” $300,000.

BMD told the court that the cost can’t be recovered under its contract with the state government and would result in delays to the project of up to two weeks.

During the alleged blockade, BMD claimed a CFMEU delegate told the company that if it allowed the organisers onto the site without complying with the visitor entry requirements, the trucks would be allowed through.

CFMEU Queensland secretary Michael Ravbar said the union was raising concerns about safety failings at the site and alleged two organisers were physically assaulted for “simply doing their job”.

“The commission, the government safety regulator and the police all recognise the right of union officials to enter worksites to look after the health and safety of workers,” he said on site after the incident.

When asked about the union’s polarising negotiation tactics, Premier Steven Miles said he supported Queenslands worker’s right to campaign and organise for better pay but did not support “bullying, harassment and intimidation.” 

“Bad, Mad and Dangerous”

This isn’t the first time the Centenary Bridge project, which has a site agreement with the Australian Workers Union, has had a run-in with the CFMEU. Last month, union officials were allegedly caught on CCTV footage jumping into the site after security barred them from entering.

In that case, CFMEU organiser Dean Rielly is facing claims that he threatened to grab a bat and “start swinging” if the builders didn’t bring CFMEU subcontractors on site. 

Mr Rielly was personally fined $15,000 for other entry breaches at a separate Georgiou Group project less than two weeks before.

The clash also comes after weeks of campaigning from the union against BMD – which members have branded “Bad, Mad and Dangerous” – over a number of alleged safety issues, with many blaming the contractor for the heat-related death of a worker on one of their sites in December.

In a video posted to social media, the group claimed the “baking hot” site offered workers no escape from the heat, offering no air-conditioning in the crib room and no cool drinking water.

“This is what happens when Bad Mad Dangerous put productivity and profits ahead of worker safety,” wrote the union. 

Despite the increasingly bold on-site antics from union organisers, the Fair Work Ombudsman has yet to launch any new cases against the CFMEU in the 18 months since it took charge of the industry and has dropped claims in 30 per cent of the cases it inherited.

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Jarrod Brown combines his background in journalism, copywriting and digital marketing with a lifelong passion for storytelling. He has a strong passion for new and emerging consumer technology within the building sector. He lives on the Sunshine Coast - usually found glued to the deck of a surfboard.