Union protest: about 1000 workers have walked off the Barangaroo site. Photo: NIc Walker
More than 1000 construction workers have walked off the job at the Barangaroo building site in Sydney, saying they won't return until Monday morning.
The workers, who are members of the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union, voted to walk off the job on Thursday morning in protest against the suspension of a union delegate in late March.
Late on Thursday, they had been ordered to return to work on Friday by the Fair Work Commission.
"Frustrated": CFMEU NSW secretary Brian Parker. Photo: Nick Moir
CFMEU NSW secretary Brian Parker said the delegate, Peter Genovese, was stood down on "trumped-up charges", including offensive language, alleged assault and for being a representative on the board of Comet Training, which is part-owned by the union.
"We've been frustrated about it and asked Lend Lease to get the delegate back to work. They haven't done that. We took it to the workers and they resolved to walk off the job until Monday," Mr Parker said.
"The workers formally moved that resolution and they are very adamant and are extremely [unhappy with] the fact that Peter has had trumped-up charges made against him."
Mr Parker accused Lend Lease of working closely with the federal government and the Fair Work Building and Construction agency to undermine the CFMEU's representation on the Barangaroo site.
Mr Genovese, who was the CFMEU delegate on the Barangaroo site and chairman of the safety committee, conceded that he swears "from time to time".
"It's not something I do commonly," he said. "I speak appropriately in the place with the people that I'm at.
"This is the building construction industry. It's a hard game."
Mr Genovese said the charges Lend Lease has made against him have no substance and accused the company of a "witch hunt".
"It's just kindergarten stuff," he said.
A spokeswoman for Lend Lease said the industrial action taken by workers was unlawful and the company was seeking immediate orders against the union.
"Where matters raised by the union are found to be genuinely about safety, we work with all parties, including unions, regulators and workers, to resolve those issues," she said.
"However, where we believe safety is being used cynically as an industrial weapon to disrupt sites, we act swiftly to protect our rights and report unlawful behaviour to the appropriate authorities, as we have done today.
“Mr Genovese is an employee of Lend Lease who was stood down with pay on 26 March. The matter involving Mr Genovese is an employment matter and is not related to site safety.”
The Fair Work Commission late on Thursday afternoon ordered the CFMEU workers back to work on Friday. It also granted Lend Lease an order prohibiting the union from organising any further industrial action for three months.
A Lend Lease spokeswoman said: "If the CFMEU continues to organise unlawfully, as they did this morning, we can and will seek enforcement action in the federal court.”
Mr Parker said the union would meet with workers early on Friday morning to decide whether they would return to work. He said he could not guarantee that all workers would return before Monday.
"This is a battle in a war that Lend Lease started," Mr Parker said.
Mr Parker claimed information the union has obtained under freedom of information laws suggest Lend Lease had failed to notify it of up to 20 safety incidents on its building sites in recent months.
However, a spokeswoman for Lend Lease said: "Safety is our priority and we strongly refute the claims the CFMEU is making as part of their cynical industrial campaign.
"If the CFMEU wishes to assert otherwise, they are well aware that they can approach us, or the independent umpire, WorkCover, to address any concerns.”