4th August 2022
The Mining and Energy Union remains strongly committed to giving members a vote on withdrawing from the CFMMEU.
So what’s taking so long?
In short, we are facing strong legal opposition from the construction-dominated national office of the CFMMEU to giving Mining and Energy members a say.
It is over 12 months since we initially lodged our application to the Fair Work Commission for a ballot of all members of the Mining and Energy Division.
That application suffered a setback last September when the Fair Work Commission dismissed our application on the narrow grounds of the relevant date of the Mining and Energy Division’s amalgamation with the CFMMEU – whether 2018 as per our application or the earlier date of 1992.
Our legal team is confident in our grounds for relying on the 2018 date and we have appealed the FWC’s dismissal of our ballot application to the Federal Court.
The hearing of the appeal occurred on 1 March 2022 and we are awaiting the decision.
While we are hopeful that the Federal Court will approve our ballot, if we are unsuccessful we still have a number of legal options in pursuing a demerger ballot.
At all levels of leadership – District, National and Central Council – we are committed to pursuing the path of an independent future that was unanimously endorsed by our National Convention last year.
While the legal delays are frustrating, our determination to give members a democratic say in our Union’s future remains strong based on continued feedback from members that they no longer feel the CFMMEU represents their interests.
In positive news, the Fair Work Commission has approved a rule change formalising our name as the Mining and Energy Union, even while we remain legally part of the CFMMEU.
We are pleased that the new branding has been enthusiastically embraced and it’s good to see our new Mining and Energy Union logos being rolled out around the country.
What about the ACTU?
The ACTU has intervened in the legal tussle about the demerger ballot on the side of CFMMEU. They are representing the views of some affiliates that fear that if we are successful on the legal point of the amalgamation date, other amalgamated unions will become more vulnerable to demerger attempts.
It has always been our intention to proceed down a path that allowed our Division to have a say on our future with as little impact as possible on other amalgamated unions.
In this matter, the primary legal interference to our ballot is coming from the CFMMEU National Office, which is dominated by the Construction Division. They have the choice at any time to stop their opposition to our member ballot or to come to an agreement over the withdrawal of our Division.
The MEU maintains a positive working relationship with the ACTU and when we become an independent union, we intend to affiliate with the ACTU to make sure our members have a strong voice within the trade union movement nationally.
What’s happening with the CFMMEU?
The CFMMEU has been dysfunctional since Michael O’Connor resigned as National Secretary in November 2020.
The MUA’s Christy Cain, a strong backer of Setka, was finally installed into the National Secretary role after lengthy delays due to the rules not previously accommodating his appointment.
Cain could take the role because the Fair Work Commission recently approved a rule change sought by CFMMEU National Office meaning the National Secretary does not need to be a divisional leader and that the leadership positions may be held by representatives from the same division.
We intend to appeal this decision as we believe it will entrench the Construction Division’s dominance of the amalgamated union and permanently end the tradition of power-sharing between divisions.
What’s happening with the Manufacturing Division?
The Manufacturing Division has announced its divisional executive will meet at the end of this month to discuss seeking to withdraw from the CFMMEU.
The Manufacturing Division had a great win earlier this year when the Federal Court ruled that the Construction Division had wrongfully poached 315 members. They were ordered to return the members and the hundreds of thousands of dollars in dues the Construction Division had collected.
This was a positive and just ending to a sorry saga that has reinforced the reasons for smaller divisions to seek independence.
What’s the timeline?
We are hopeful of being able to conduct a member ballot during the course of 2022. We have an excellent legal team who are working hard to overcome the challenges before us.
We appreciate members’ patience and we look forward to celebrating with you when all members can have a say.
Grahame Kelly, General Secretary