CFMEU hits back as mining union warns of ‘drawn out’ divorce

“This process will take several months and it is probable that a ballot of members will be held in the second half of this year.”

Mr Maher had told delegates the CFMEU had been reduced to “just macho posturing and chest beating” and the division complained of its “ruthless” use of numbers against smaller divisions, “disrespect” for mining workers’ views and “public undermining” of former national secretary Michael O’Connor to settle a personal score.

Counter claims

But Mr Noonan and Mr Crumlin on Tuesday accused Mr Maher of peddling falsehoods.

“We strongly believe that it is apparent from the resolution that the leadership of the mining and energy division failed to put the facts in front of the delegates, as the text of the resolution contains numerous false or misleading statements and allegations,” they said in a joint statement.

They said it was “astonishing” Mr Maher last year negotiated legislation with the minister for industrial relations, Christian Porter, to aid the demerger without informing the union and stressed the CFMEU had long stood by miners on major campaigns.

“We believe we need to make this unabridged and absolute commitment to mining and energy members as we can only conclude this was not communicated to the members at the convention.”

The CFMEU was in the Federal Court after the vote in an urgent appeal of an injunction that prevents its national executive, where the construction division dominates, from changing membership rules on mine sites because there was an arguable case it would disrupt the mining division’s demerger application.

According to demerger legislation introduced by the Morrison government, parties must ensure membership rules reflect the status quo immediately before withdrawal.

CFMEU barrister Malcolm Harding, SC, argued the injunction should be set aside as it “locked out” the national executive from dispute resolution until mining made its demerger application.

If mining applied to withdraw before the injunction was lifted, the appeal itself would be “pointless”, he said.

But mining division barrister Herman Borenstein, QC, warned the demerger would be a “drawn out process” and the mining division would “still be subject to the edicts of the national executive” in the meantime.

He argued the construction division’s proposed changes took place “in the unreal world”.

“Nowhere does it point to a single worker who is said to be in the wrong division … not one,” he said.

It’s clearly intended to invoke a particular power of national executive inappropriately.”

The CFMEU had already prepared a tentative national executive meeting for Thursday subject to the court handing down its decision before the end of the week.

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