Abbott opening a dark chapter in Australian industrial law by criminalising union activity

Published: 5 Aug 2015

The arrest of ACT CFMEU organiser Johnny Lomax for negotiating a pay rise heralds a dark chapter in Australian industrial relations, according to the CFMEU.

Mr Lomax who is appearing in the ACT Magistrates court this morning was charged with blackmail for securing a pay rise for workers that resulted in a financial loss for the employer.

National CFMEU Construction secretary Dave Noonan said that Mr Lomax’s charge goes against the legal framework that has operated in Australia for over a hundred years.

“There are very clear laws pertaining to industrial matters in this country with rights and responsibilities for unions and employers,” he said.

“The criminal charge against Mr Lomax is unprecedented and a disgrace. It is an attempt by Tony Abbott’s Royal Commission to use criminal law in order to prosecute a union official for lawful industrial activity.”

“Asking for a pay rise on behalf of workers is not a crime, but it appears that Tony Abbott wants to make it one.

“This presents grave implications for working people in Australia as any union official who campaigns for better wages and conditions could be charged with a crime.”

Mr Noonan said the CFMEU intends to fight this direct attack on the union movement’s ability to protect wages and conditions and pledges to back Mr Lomax.

“We intend to fully support Johnny Lomax, but this case reaches beyond Mr Lomax or the CFMEU. This is about every unionist in Australia who, if Tony Abbott has his way, risks a criminal charge for doing nothing other than advocate for higher wages for their members.

“Every person concerned about the democratic right and legal protection of workers to bargain for better pay and conditions should be alarmed by this case.”


Authorised by Michael O'Connor, National Secretary,165 Bouverie Street Carlton 3053