Joe McDonald. Picture: Bill Hatto/The West Australian.
Joe McDonald. Picture: Bill Hatto/The West Australian.

WA union firebrand Joe McDonald is one of six building union officials facing legal action for allegedly using "coercive and adverse action" to deter workers from entering the site of Perth's new children's hospital last year.

Some of the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union officials, including Mr McDonald, are alleged to have stood outside the entrance to the Nedlands site on two separate days in January last year "with a posture and demeanour and in attire calculated to deter project employees from entering", according to a statement of claim filed by Fair Work Building and Construction in Federal Court last week.

Others allegedly aided and abetted officials in their contraventions of the Fair Work Act 2009 by saying and doing "nothing to prevent or dissuade . . . the officials from their behaviour".

Mr McDonald, assistant secretary of the WA branch of the CFMEU, is also alleged to have told employees on the John Holland project words to the effect that "nobody is going into site" and the "site is shut".

Another official, Tawa Harris, allegedly physically prevented one employee from entering the site. The CFMEU officials named in the action, in addition to Mr McDonald and Mr Harris, are State secretary Mick Buchan, occupational health and safety officer Steve McCann, Brad Upton and Patrick Heathcote.

The maximum penalty for each contravention of the Fair Work Act is $10,200 for an individual and $51,000 for the CFMEU.

Fair Work director Nigel Hadgkiss said the industry watchdog took claims of coercion and adverse action "very seriously" and would take action through the courts "wherever necessary".

"Coercive and adverse action against workers, who just want to do honest work for honest pay, is unacceptable," he said.

The CFMEU declined to comment.

Most of the CFMEU's alleged actions came after officials had requested a meeting with John Holland representatives on January 25 last year.

According to Fair Work, the union officials were told it was necessary to have the right people available to attend and both parties should agree on a time to have a meeting. Mr McDonald then allegedly told project employees at a CFMEU meetings words to the effect: "What about it boys, we don't come back until next Wednesday?"

A directions hearing is scheduled for February 20.

The West Australian

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