Charges against Bob Carnegie dismissed

Friday, August 16, 2013
Workers celebrate outside the court in Brisbane on August 16. Photo: Defend Bob Carnegie FB

It took a federal magistrate five minutes to dismiss charges against veteran unionist Bob Carnegie in a Brisbane courtroom on August 16.

Carnegie faced 18 charges related to contempt of court, which were pushed by anti-union building firm Abigroup.

Abigroup had accused Carnegie of defying court orders to avoid the site of a community picket that was campaigning for safety and conditions on behalf of the Construction Forestry Mining Energy Union and its workers.

Carnegie had helped coordinate a nine-week strike by 600 unionists at the Queensland Children's Hospital construction site from July to October last year.

The workers walked off the site and stalled construction due to the company's cost-cutting use of subcontractors. Carnegie said at the time that Abigroup should agree to a union enterprise agreement. The bitter dispute was estimated to have cost Abigroup up to $100,000 a day.

Campaign Facebook group “Defend Bob Carnegie” said the proceedings, from the court orders to the 18 charges, were a “spiteful attempt to intimidate every community activist who may in future wish to assist workers in obtaining justice”.

Carnegie faced heavy fines and a possible jail sentence if convicted. But the federal court threw out the charges because the original court orders were ambiguous and legally questionable. Carnegie emerged from court to the cheers of more than 500 supporters.

He told reporters: "It's been tough, particularly on my family. We've seen it through because we're a family. We're a union family.

"As long as we stick together, as long as we believe in ourselves, as long as we stand by our organisation, we'll get through everything we have to face."

Defend Bob Carnegie said: “The financial losses incurred by Abigroup during the dispute would better have been avoided by negotiating and agreeing to the workers’ demands much earlier.”

Carnegie still faces a civil court case under Fair Work Australia and the “tort of nuisance”. Also brought by Abigroup, the case also targets the CFMEU, the Electrical Trades Union and the Communications Electrical Plumbing Union (Plumbers).

From GLW issue 978