The construction union has threatened to ignore new industrial laws and regulations ahead of changes to the building industry watchdog, signalling an end to long-running industrial peace on worksites.
National president of the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union, Joe McDonald, warned the union would not "bow over" after legislation is introduced to restore the Australian Building and Construction Commission.
The former Labor Government lightened the powers of the watchdog, which it re-named Fair Work Building and Construction, partly by reducing penalties for unlawful conduct by union officials and members.
But the Coalition is committed to restoring the agency, and has hired two top chiefs from the former ABCC, Nigel Hadgkiss and John Lloyd, to help return it to its former strength.
Mr McDonald said he had no plans to change his industrial tactics, which have led to numerous arrests for unlawful conduct, prosecutions and fines.
"(We) beat them last time and we'll beat this time," he said. "I don't think this union is going to bow over for a couple of recycled rejects."
The CFMEU recently hired Chris Prast, the former Perth practice manager of Slater & Gordon, as its in-house lawyer. This is thought to be a move to upgrade its legal armoury before an anticipated battle with the Federal Government.
When asked if he would observe legislative and regulatory changes, Mr McDonald said: "I'm not observing nothing other than the request of the members, and what's good for the members."
He later added: "Any law that's put in place to stop an official from getting to his members should be broken, every day.
"That was (a quote from late unionist) John Cummins and I support it one hundred per cent."
Employment minister Eric Abetz yesterday said Mr McDonald's comments were concerning. "Hard working rank and file members of the CFMEU in Western Australia should be greatly concerned about the direction militant union boss Joe McDonald is taking them," he said.
"The Coalition, along with most CFMEU members, believes there is no place for bullying, thuggery and illegality in the workplace. Clearly Mr McDonald does not."
Mr Abetz called on Opposition Leader Bill Shorten to reveal whether he supports Mr McDonald's view that "it's OK to break the law."
"Labor can either choose to support legislation to put a stop to unlawful conduct in the construction sector, or not."