Bob Carnegie, a community organiser in Brisbane, is being sued for hundreds of thousands of dollars by construction firm Abigroup following a strike at its Queensland Children’s Hospital site.
Campbell Newman’s state government has also joined the case, saying it wants to present arguments as to sentencing. Bob could face up to $400,000 in fines and even jail time if the case goes against him.
The company claims that Bob ignored an injunction to stay away from the picketline at the site during the dispute and is now suing him on 54 separate grounds including contempt of court. Abigroup also took out injunctions against officials from the building unions participating in the picket. Bob has been targeted specifically for helping organise the picket. During the dispute the company filmed and documented almost every minute of the picketline.
The Abigroup strike ended in victory after nine weeks, with the company forced to ensure subcontractors on the site receive the same rates as other workers. In an industry where jobs come and go quickly and dodgy business operators are rife, this kind of action is vital to maintaining union organisation and decent wages and safety. The targeting of Bob Carnegie is another clear attempt to use anti-strike laws to intimidate workers out of taking effective strike action.
The case is expected to run for several months. A defence campaign has been established and is asking union branches to move motions to support Bob.
Workers at Abigroup received support from across the union movement, with other workers raising money to keep them going through nine weeks without pay. The courts need to know that union members will not tolerate one of our own facing massive fines, and even jail time, simply for helping organise strike action.