The Federal Court has granted an injunction preventing a union from blocking access to a site, pending the determination of proceedings regarding whether a union organiser coerced a labour hire company not to employ Filipino workers.

A company engaged workers through a labour hire company to work on a building site.  A picket began at the site, halting construction.  The company complained to the Fair Work Building and Construction Inspectorate (FWBI) that a union organiser had unlawfully coerced the labour hire company not to employ the Filipino workers.  The FWBI applied to the Federal Court for an injunction preventing the union, its organisers and employees from hindering access to the site and persuading anyone against entering the site.  The union alleged that the picket was a “community protest” run by unemployed workers who were concerned that the company had engaged workers on 457 visas, instead of locals.

The Federal Court held that there was a serious issue to be tried and sufficient evidence regarding whether the union organiser had coerced the labour hire company not to employ Filipinos.  The Court stated that “the union may be vicariously liable” and that the balance of convenience favoured the grant of the injunction.  However, the injunction “does not, and cannot, deal with the position of people at the site who remain protesting … but who are not employees of the union … encouraged or supported by the union, its organisers or employees”.  The Court refused to grant an injunction directed to the union not to harass “any person seeking to enter or exit the site”, as there was no evidence that the union or union organiser had engaged in such behaviour.