McColl's case waste of taxpayers' money: TWU

Despite admitting wrongdoing, TWU criticises Fair Work Ombudsman for prosecuting it over McColl's shutdown

By Brad Gardner | November 5, 2010

Despite admitting wrongdoing in trying to shut down a McColl’s depot, the NSW branch of the Transport Workers Union has hit out over being prosecuted.

TWU State Secretary Wayne Forno has accused the Fair Work Ombudsman of wasting taxpayers’ money after it pursued the union for waging unlawful industrial action at a McColl’s depot last year.

The Federal Magistrates Court fined the union $9900 and its organiser, Neale Harper, $1320 for organising the workers to strike despite the action contravening the Workplace Relations Act.

Harper was also fined $100 for failing to return an expired entry permit within the 14-day timeframe.

"The Ombudsman needs to get their priorities right and put the interests of Australian workers first," Forno says.

"On behalf of the taxpayers who funded this expensive exercise, I question the amount of money spent on this by the Fair Work Ombudsman in hiring a leading law firm and barrister for this case for which in all likelihood the legal expenses will significantly exceed the fines."

Forno says the Ombudsman should instead direct its attention to investigating the alleged assault of one of its organisers by No Fuss Liquid Waste in September this year.

He claims the Ombudsman has refused to look into the matter or address claims that a TWU organiser had her life threatened while visiting a work site to support workers.

"The Fair Work Ombudsman does not wish to enter a public debate about its litigation policy except to say laws regarding how industrial action can be lawfully conducted must be adhered to," Fair Work Ombudsman spokesman Craig Bildstien says.

"In terms of complaints raised by the NSW TWU with the Fair Work Ombudsman, those matters that fall within our jurisdiction are currently being investigated".

Following the McColl’s case, Fair Work Ombudsman Executive Director said a failure to comply with industrial action laws was a serious matter.

As reported by ATN, the union went on strike to pressure McColl’s into reinstating sacked forklift driver and TWU member Michael Lindsell.

The shutdown hit McColl’s bottom line because the morning strike extended into the afternoon. It meant inbound trucks could not be unloaded and no outbound trucks could be loaded.

Owner-drivers that turned up for work were left with no goods to carry, while freight went unsorted and McColl’s lost business to customers seeking next day deliveries.

Upon fining the TWU and Harper, Federal Magistrate Shenagh Barnes recommended the union "control the conduct of its officers" and educate them to avoid future breaches of workplace law.

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